Hospital-at-home programs like that of Atrium Health are a trend that may create new opportunities for local clinical laboratories to support physicians treating patients in the comfort of their own homes
Here is a deal that shows the hospital-at-home (HaH) movement is gaining momentum, a trend that clinical laboratories need to recognize for the opportunities it represents. Best Buy Health is partnering with 40-hospital Atrium Health in an HaH program that the healthcare system plans to scale nationally.
This newly-announced collaboration means that Charlotte, North Carolina-based Atrium Health—as partner—may include the hospitals and providers that are part of the 26-hospital Advocate Aurora Health system (now known as Advocate Health), a non-profit healthcare system that Atrium merged with in December of 2022. Providers and hospitals from North/South Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio all could be participating in the new HaH venture.
This latest partnership between a retail giant and healthcare network demonstrates how innovation is working its way into the US healthcare system via companies not traditionally involved in direct patient care. These two organizations see an opportunity to combine their strengths to “enhance the patient experience of receiving hospital-level care at home,” according to a Best Buy news release.
“This is the coming together of technology and empathy,” said Rasu Shrestha, MD (above), Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation and Commercialization Officer at Advocate Health, in a press release. “We’re able to leverage the power of social workers, paramedics, nurses and physicians, but also technology to take care of the patients in their homes. We can bring forward things like remote patient monitoring and sophisticated wearable devices that capture their vital signs and combine it with the human touch—bringing it directly into our patients’ homes.” Clinical laboratories that support providers in the states Advocate Health serves may want to contact Best Buy Health. (Photo copyright: Advocate Health.)
Dispatching Geek Squads to Support Telehealth in Patients’ Homes
Best Buy Health brings to its collaboration with Atrium Health expertise in omnichannel business strategies, supply chain, and a platform to enable telehealth connectivity between patients and providers, as well as deploying specially trained Geek Squad agents for in-home support, according to an Atrium Health press release.
“With Atrium Health, we want to help enable healthcare at home for everyone. It’s getting the devices to the home when Atrium Health and the patient needs them,” said Deborah Di Sanzo, President of Best Buy Health.
Atrium Health sees Best Buy Health as a partner that can grow its program while addressing complex in-home technology that can be “tricky” to operate, Retail Dive reported.
“This transition that happens from discharging a patient from a hospital to the void of their home is the dark side of the moon: it’s disconnected, confusing, expensive. What we’ve been doing in the past is working through our hospital-at-home program and putting together a lot of these devices,” Rasu Shrestha, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation and Commercialization Officer at Advocate Health, told Fierce Healthcare.
“By working with Best Buy Health, we’re developing the seamless connected care experience and an opportunity to truly scale this,” he added.
Supporting hospital-at-home services in collaboration with Atrium Health will be a new role for at least some members of the Geek Squad. “They won’t necessarily be the same team that’s doing your home theater. They will be Geek Squad agents specially trained in health to deliver specific services in the home,” said Deborah Di Sanzo, President of Best Buy Health. (Photo copyright: Best Buy.)
Best Buy’s Healthcare Acquisitions and Growth in Hospital-at-Home Programs
The electronics retailer’s acquisitions, according to Fierce Healthcare, include:
- GreatCall (now known as Lively), maker of health and safety products, in 2018.
- Critical Signal Technologies, developer of remote monitoring technologies, in 2019.
- TytoCare, a telehealth device company, in 2019.
- Current Health, a remote monitoring care-at-home platform, in 2021.
While Best Buy was busy acquiring healthcare companies, more HaH programs popped up across the US due in part to rising inpatient costs and providers’ need to be more efficient and resourceful.
Atrium Health started its Hospital-at-Home program in March 2020 as a way to care for COVID-19 patients. The HaH program now serves people with:
- Cardiac conditions,
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
- Infections, and
- Other medical and post-operative needs.
According to Healthcare Dive, Shrestha claimed Atrium’s HaH program “has served more than 6,300 patients and freed 25,000 hospital bed days since it launched in March 2020,” and produced clinical outcomes that were “the same or better” when compared to the health systems’ own hospitals, and with higher patient satisfaction scores.
“We anticipate the partnership will combine Atrium Health operational and clinical expertise with Best Buy Health’s technical and logistical expertise to allow us to scale the program to 100 patients at a time and beyond within our market,” Shrestha told Healthcare Dive. “When you put that into context, this would be the equivalent of having an additional mid-sized hospital and have a real impact on capacity in our bricks-and-mortar facilities.”
Taking Atrium’s HaH Program Nationwide
According to federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services predictions, healthcare spending will reach $6.8 trillion by 2030. This might explain why Best Buy increased its investment in healthcare at the same time its sales declined 9.3% in the fourth quarter of 2022 amid softening consumer demand for electronics, Reuters reported.
And, according to Forbes, though financial terms on the Best Buy/Atrium Health partnership were not released, additional investments are planned to “scale [Atrium’s HaH program] beyond the system.”
“We combine our omnichannel, Geek Squad, caring centers, and Current Health services to enable care,” Di Sanzo told Forbes. “At scale, no other company has the holistic combination of resources that when combined, will change the lives of consumers and enable them to heal right in their own home surrounding by the people and things they love the most. Those strengths, combined with Atrium Health’s extensive clinical expertise and deep experience leading in virtual care, will help us improve and enable care in the home for everyone.”
Clinical Laboratory Testing at Home
Clearly there are opportunities for clinical laboratories to support providers who treat patients in their homes. Lab leaders may want to reach out to colleagues who are planning HaH programs in partnership with Best Buy Health, Atrium Health, or other companies around the nation launching similar hospital-at-home programs.
As medical laboratories address staffing challenges, HaH strategies for performing blood tests and other diagnostics on patients in their homes could lead to important new revenue.
—Donna Marie Pocius