Forget the latest iPhone release, retail giant Best Buy (NASDAQ: BBY) has unveiled a new technology service as part of its in-store product line-up that aims to serve seniors and baby boomers.
The Richfield, Minnesota-based retailer has added its name among other national, well-known brands offering technology solutions to senior care, rolling out its Assured Living program—a sensor-based notification service utilizing a slew of devices, such as motion, bed, chair and door sensors; Wi-Fi enabled doorbell cameras; and smart locks and thermostats that can pair up with the the senior resident’s smart phone.
The devices are installed unobtrusively throughout the resident’s home by a Best Buy Geek Squad team member, who trains the senior resident and their caregiver on the system. Geek Squad members are available 24/7 to provide technical support to the resident and their caregiver/family.
The program is designed to learn the senior resident’s activity and sleep patterns. The data collected is then captured in an activity dashboard, which sends automatic notifications to a caregiver’s mobile device if there are any deviations from the resident’s standard routine.
Best Buy is piloting the program in the Minneapolis market, and recently launched it in Denver. Service starts at $1 a day in the Minneapolis market, and $2 a day in Denver.
A base package of equipment costs $389.96, according to a Bloomberg report, while the monitoring service costs $29 per month. Devices can be purchased a la carte, however, and is based on agreed-upon needs of the senior resident and their caregiver/family member. The Assured Living Program can be purchased online or in-store at one of Best Buy’s “Solutions Central” sections.
“The information is especially helpful when normal patterns change—like [if the resident] is in bed longer than normal or doesn’t seem to be eating because the refrigerator door hasn’t been opened in a while,” according to an issued statement from Best Buy.
A welcome recognition
In Denver, the technology is used in tandem with a wellness coach sponsored by health insurance provider UnitedHealthcare to supply the resident and caregivers/family members with a personalized wellness program, coupled with health education and access to other resources, including transportation, meal preparation/delivery services and home health and rehabilitation services.
These pilot markets are critical to helping Best Buy understand if there is a “unique role [it] can play in supporting aging-in-place options,” Matthew Smith, external communications specialist at Best Buy, said in an e-mail to Home Health Care News.
“We’re bringing together unique Best Buy assets in the smart home space, [including] a broad selection of devices, customized consultation, coupled with Geek Squad services that enable families to determine which tools best serve the needs of their loved ones,” said Smith.
These assets and the Best Buy brand carries weight for John Hopper, chief investment officer, at Chicago-based investment bank, capital markets and wealth management firm Ziegler. Hopper, who oversees the firm’s Link-Age Longevity Fund, calls Best Buy’s move a “welcome recognition of the driving force” of the aging population.
“More and more [companies] are realizing that a significant part of their business plan has to be focused on the aging population, and I think it’s great that somebody like Best Buy is looking at that,” Hopper told HHCN. “When you are talking about home health care, the people who are buying the technology or the service also really want to know if you’ve got the expertise to be able to deliver the services correctly.”
Embracing remote monitoring
While the retailer has a strong foothold in the technology realm, its name is not synonymous within the health care industry—a perception that Best Buy has to change, Hopper explained. Despite this, he acknowledged the potential solutions that Assured Living can bring to the in-home care landscape.
“Remote monitoring gives you the opportunity to apply care when it’s needed [and] provides a lot of comfort that the aging person will have that type of support and caregiving that’s needed,” said Hopper. “I think it could really change the landscape from that perspective.”
But in light of the benefits it can bring, Hopper stressed that in-home care agencies must remain cognizant of how the solutions fit into their care models.
“It really comes down to, ‘Are you building your business model to accommodate this new technology, as opposed to just trying to have the technology fit in to your current business model?’” said Hopper. “It’s not a given that two are going to be compatible.”
The retailer’s dive into the senior care market stems from its “Best Buy 2020: Building the New Blue” growth strategy, which aims to “explore services and solutions that solve real customer needs,” according to the company.
Best Buy believes its play into senior care will achieve big results, with the goal of a $43 billion revenue rate in 2021, compared to $39.4 billion in 2017, according to a MarketWatch report.
Best Buy said it will evaluate initial feedback and results from Assured Living’s performance in Denver and Minneapolis before taking the program to other markets. In the meantime, the company continues to consult with health care industry leaders on how to approach and develop other health and wellness technology-based solutions, according to Smith.
“We believe [AssuredLiving] has potential to encourage independent living and deliver added peace of mind. Our goal with these pilots is to better understand the full potential of these tools to positively impact the lives of seniors and their adult children,” Smith said.
Written by Carlo Calma