As president of Best Buy Health, Deborah Di Sanzo leads three focus areas for the company’s at-home health strategy: wellness at home, aging at home and care at home. She also heads the incubation and corporate development teams. Prior to her posts at Best Buy, she led IBM’s Watson Health team and, before that, was CEO of Philips Healthcare. She joins Modern Healthcare to discuss Best Buy’s plans for growth and why it sees big opportunities in healthcare. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How has Best Buy’s healthcare strategy evolved over the past few years?
I came on at Best Buy in September 2020. We had an opportunity to take another look at the healthcare strategy based on the trends we were seeing. During the pandemic, we saw an increase in the consumerization of healthcare–this feeling from consumers of, “I need to take care of myself and my family in my home, and I’m going to do it with digital health tools, and I can now engage with my physicians and health systems in a virtual way.”
In response, we tuned the strategy to enable care at home in three focal areas—wellness at home, aging at home and care at home—and built on the Best Buy core competencies of being an omnichannel, consumer electronics retailer. Then we have Geek Squad to help people with technology in their home.
What opportunities did Best Buy see in healthcare?
You might think of a virtual care meeting as a physician on one end of a computer screen and a patient on another, but when we looked at that, we saw a logistics problem. If you’re going to have a hospital or chronic disease management program at home, then you need connected remote patient monitoring equipment.
How do you get the remote patient monitoring equipment into the home when it needs to be there? How do you connect it? How do you make sure the battery is working? How do you make sure the caregiver and the patient know how to use it? How do you make sure that the connection to the physician is right? We can curate remote patient monitoring consumer health devices. We have layers of support, including Geek Squad, going into the patient’s home to help train people, get the monitoring equipment set up, make sure it’s working and make sure it’s connected.
How does Best Buy set itself apart from other retail disrupters, such as CVS or Walmart?
I really think of us more as the plumbing. We are enabling that connection between the physician and the patient. We’re enabling that connection between the care manager at a payer and the senior. We’re enabling caregivers to know what is happening with their mother or father. We’re giving confidence to seniors in their homes.
We don’t have a pharmacy, and we’re not going to have a pharmacy. We are not a primary care provider, and we’re not going to be a primary care provider. But we will enable a primary care provider to take better care of their patient virtually.
Why are you not considering a role as a healthcare services provider?
When you build strategies, particularly if you’re building a health strategy at a company that is not a health company, I always think the first place you look is to the core competencies of the company that you’re building it in. I’ve already mentioned the core competencies of Best Buy. In the pandemic, the physicians were taking the remote patient monitoring equipment out of the packaging, putting the batteries in, putting the equipment in new packaging. They were training the patients on how to use it, and they were even technical support when something wouldn’t work in the home. Doctors don’t have time for this. Nurses don’t have time for this.
We thought, “This is the need that perfectly fits Best Buy’s capabilities. This is what we’re going to lean into now.”
We acquired Current Health for its HIPAA-compliant platform that connects the devices in the home and then connects to electronic health records. We don’t need to be the physician. There are lots of physicians in the world. Best Buy is not a healthcare organization, but we are an amazing technical organization, and those are the capabilities we’ll bring to bear.
You’ve acquired multiple companies as part of your healthcare strategy. What’s your stance on mergers and acquisitions now?
We want to look at anything that enables care at home. I can imagine there are other companies that could come into our portfolio and enable care. That may be a joint venture or partnership. It could be an acquisition.
What’s the status of your partnerships with health systems via Current Health?
Current Health has exceeded our expectations. When we were looking at a care-at-home platform, we screened 300 companies. We chose Current Health for the excellent management team and—no pun intended—the current platform. When we acquired Current Health, they partnered with nine hospital systems in the U.S. and 11 in the United Kingdom. We now partner with 32 of the U.K. health trusts, and we partner with 22 health systems in the U.S. We partner with five of the top 20 health systems in the U.S. What we found is our value proposition of being the chief technology officer for care at home resonated with the top health systems in the U.S., and so we started ramping up our competencies and putting the platform in and connecting the patients to their caregivers much more quickly than we had even anticipated.
What’s next for Best Buy Health?
We will always be hiring developers. There are probably never too many developers that we could have, because there’s just so much that we can do to enhance enabling care at home.
We started using Geek Squad and Geek Squad City for logistics and support about 18 months ago. We started first in our commercial aging-at-home business, delivering commercial and personal emergency-response devices to individuals’ homes. Then we started with a pilot for enabling care at home with Geek Squad agents, either taking the devices to a patient’s home or just supporting patients from our Geek Squad City precincts. The pilot was successful. We’ll be expanding the support from Geek Squad for the hospital enabling care at home.
We believe that people like to heal at home. They’re there with their family around them, maybe their pets. It’s a familiar place. We want to be able to expand this to more health systems and more payers, and so that’s where we’ll be going.