Best Buy Health VP talks what's next for senior tech in 2021

Sarah Jones, VP for commercial product at Best Buy Health, discusses what to expect in 2021 and why payment models need to evolve.
By Laura Lovett
01:53 pm
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Sarah Jones of Best Buy Health

Sarah Jones

Best Buy has long been a staple of big box retail stores in the U.S. However, its efforts in the healthcare space span more than a decade. Today the retail giant is looking to the future and taking advantage of the new digital opportunities that have presented themselves within the last year.

MobiHealthNews sat down with Sarah Jones, vice president for commercial product at Best Buy Health, to talk about what we saw in 2020 and what the digital health industry can expect in the next year.

The shift towards virtual care has been a hallmark of 2020.

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“From my perspective and where we sit in the healthcare world, one of the big themes obviously was the rapid adoption of digital health technologies. We saw this across the board. People went from having 30 telehealth appointments a quarter to 1,200 a month, from a provider perspective. The other piece, I think specifically in the senior population, was seniors were extremely isolated.”

However, the coronavirus pandemic also highlighted another chronic issue in healthcare – loneliness.

“We saw an increase in social isolation. … Pre-2020 we talked a lot about social isolation, but one of the things we saw were people working together rapidly to address that situation. So, there was this big convergence of 'We have to figure out virtual tools.' I think some things were home runs, and we saw huge leaps in [customer experience] and adoption, and other things were sort of patched together. And when I think where we are going, we have to fix those patches.

“This year it was, 'I have to see my doctor, and I don’t have any other options, so let’s figure this out.' And I think providers were in the same place of, 'I don’t know how to use this tool, but I’ll figure it out.' As we go forward, ... providers, patients and the payers will be focusing on 'How do I improve this experience so it is sustainable for everyone?'”

Going into 2021, she also expects to see continued investment in digital tools, and senior tools in particular.  

“I think we’ll see a ton of, in the broad space [of] investment in digital health technology, specifically aging technology, [will be] a huge area of investment in trends and portfolios. There’s a lot of investment in that area."

However, with more tools on the market, Jones notes that payment models for digital will need to be ironed out.

“From a healthcare perspective, I think it will be interesting, because a lot of the payment models that are in place right now are really temporary. We haven’t made any meaningful changes in the payment model, so it will be interesting to see how those things continue, and how they continue to support the adoption of digital health.

"We’ve made great strides in telehealth reimbursement and coding, but it will be interesting to see what CMS and subsequently payers and employers are will to reimburse to support that innovation and adoption of digital health.”

While telehealth was hot in 2020, Jones predicts somewhat of a slowdown in the future.

“I know I work in digital heath, but I’m bearish on the idea that we have crossed the chasm, and we are never going to go back on these levels of adoption. If you look at the adoption rates of virtual from March to October you will see actually a downward trend.”

She does see digital continuing to be a driving force in the upcoming years. However, she says the user experience needs to have improvements.

“One thing I think we need to close the gap on is … [the] consumer experience. And I think in 2021 we’ll see all that innovation, and we have to have the payment models come together.

“… I think the influx of consumer technology and new entrances into the market could help push that.  If we don’t focus on, 'How do I make this as good as going into the office? How do I make this feel as easy as hopping in my car?', we’ll lose people, because those options will be available, and there will be market sources saying, 'People, come back into the clinic. Please come back into the hospital.' The important piece is going to be focusing on that end patient and end user experience.”

This consumer experience is particularly important in the senior market.

“Let’s meet people where they are and make sure they have the tools, the knowledge and the support to cross that digital divide,” Jones said. “Then let’s connect with them so we can actually leverage all of that innovation in a way that is useful for seniors.”

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