NJ hospital, Best Buy pilot retail mHealth devices

By Brian Dolan

bestbuyNew Jersey healthcare facility Meridian Health is working together with their local Best Buy store to assess whether consumers are comfortable buying connected health devices at a big box electronics store, Sandra Elliott, Director of Consumer Technology at Meridian Health told attendees at our event, MobiHealthNews Presents: Everywhere Healthcare in Las Vegas last month.

"We have spent a significant amount of time over the last few months working with Best Buy," Elliott announced. "Meridian is very comfortable in the understanding that as health system we know a lot about care, but not a lot about retail. Most people will or do feel very comfortable about going to Best Buy and looking at consumer electronics. Given the fact that a number of consumer medical devices are available through other retail stores, we wondered whether Best Buy was a potential opportunity."

Elliott said that Best Buy and Meridian conducted mystery shopping runs and focus groups to gauge interest.

"It has been an interesting journey," Elliott said. "With the initial focus groups and mystery shopping, people felt very comfortable that they could get devices commonly found at CVS, Walgreens and even WalMart at a Best Buy, too. These are devices like blood pressure cuffs, glucometers and similar ones."

While it's a common refrain in the connected health industry that technology is not the issue for adoption of these devices, Elliott contends that for selling consumer health devices the technology, namely interoperability and usability are key issues.

"The reason consumers are more comfortable buying some of these health devices at a Best Buy rather than a CVS or Walgreens in some cases is that they know that the data is valuable, and they want to learn how to connect the device to their PCs or mobile phones or other system. That's not a question that Meridian Health wants to get involved in answering," Elliott explained.

It's probably not a problem that CVS or Walgreens wants to get involved with either.

"In these test runs Meridian provides the connection back into the health system. Remember, healthcare is very local and we at Meridian Health have a very strong brand in our area. Meridian and Best Buy can band together to co-brand ourselves as resource for people when they are looking at these health devices. The results have been very positive."

"At Meridian, we began to look at technology to meet the needs of consumers, both as our patients and as caregivers. Those needs include everything from getting that lab result more quickly to just being able to make sure that Mom and Dad are doing fine."

Elliott is also bullish on mobile health technologies in particular:

"Mobile has been a logical approach for us... Our senior population especially is engaged on the mobile platform and they would much rather be using a mobile service than one that ties them down to the home and just makes them feel older."