In the fall of 2004, news broke that Best Buy planned to launch a new chain of retail stores, called Eq-Life, that targeted middle-age women shoppers. Eq-Life would help them access technology and resources to manage their family's health. At the time, a Best Buy spokeswoman said that Eq-Life was serving an "uncharted industry."
After about 18 months of lackluster sales at the original Minneapolis-St. Paul Eq-Life stores, Best Buy pulled out of the venture and sold its majority stake. Shortly thereafter all Eq-Life stores closed down.
Of course, since then the consumer healthcare industry has discovered a whole suite of new technologies to build on, including PHRs and smarter smartphones. Despite the Eq-Life debacle, Best Buy appears to be gearing up to re-enter the market in a very big way -- this time, though, it looks like its healthcare technology offerings will remain in-house.
At the Microsoft Connected Health Conference this past June, Best Buy teamed up with Microsoft's HealthVault team to invite device makers to pitch the electronics store's executives in a private meeting at the event: "If you believe that your product or solution can wow health-conscious shoppers at the largest consumer electronics retailer in the United States, this is your chance to make it happen," stated the Microsoft-Best Buy invitation for "HealthVaultDevices@BestBuy". The invitation also explained that "outstanding solutions providers" would have the opportunity to discuss collaboration opportunities with Best Buy during a special dinner later this summer.
Qualifications for the device companies included the ability to "demonstrate how health data can be transferred from their device, via a wired or wireless connection, to a PC, phone or directly to the cloud." HealthVault integration was considered a "plus" but not a requirement.
Last month, Lance Rusco, Director of Strategy for Best Buy within the Connected Digital World strategy group told attendees at Qualcomm's Smart Services Leadership Summit in San Diego that Best Buy estimates 50 million cellular-enabled devices will pass through its stores in 2012. Rusco included medical monitoring and tracking devices among them.
In the U.S. there are more than 1,000 Best Buy stores. Wireless healthcare solutions providers looking to go direct-to-consumer should be encouraged by Best Buy's renewed interest in the consumer health market. And with reports from Frost & Sullivan, ABI Research, Parks Associates and others just this past month -- it's far from an "uncharted industry" anymore.