Mass General Brigham taps Best Buy Health to scale up its at-home care services

Mass General Brigham tapped retailer Best Buy Health to scale up its Healthcare at Home services to meet growing demand for home-based care and address workforce shortages.

As the consumer electronics retail company expands its ambitions in healthcare, the collaboration marks another major health system partnership, building on its work with Atrium Health and Geisinger Health.

Mass General Brigham's Healthcare Home operation includes acute-level hospital care for patients, called Home Hospital, and Home Care, which offers medical services for patients recovering from illness or injury.

The Home Hospital program is one of the largest acute home-based care models in the country, providing care for patients who would otherwise need to be hospitalized for conditions such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and infections.

The health systems' Home Care is the largest Medicare-certified home health business in New England, according to the organization.

Home Hospital care gained momentum in 2020 when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched the Acute Hospital Care at Home waiver that provided federal regulatory and financial authorization for these programs to combat the COVID pandemic.

Since then, Mass General Brigham has provided home-based hospital services to over 3,000 patients, shifting in-hospital care equal to 15,000 days into the homes of patients. In 2023, the MGB Home Hospital has facilitated nearly 1,000 admissions to date and currently has a capacity for 33 patients, the health system said in a press release.

The health system said it expects to shift 10% of inpatient care to patients' homes over the next five years. 

Heather O’Sullivan, president of Healthcare at Home at Mass General Brigham, said the health system is driving a "transformation in care model delivery" and Best Buy provides "logistics sophistication" to help it scale its home hospital programs.

"Best Buy stands out in the consumer tech and electronic space because of the experience that they've provided to their customers," Dr. Stephen Dorner, chief clinical and innovation officer at Mass General Brigham Healthcare at Home, said in an interview about the partnership. "What better partner could you hope to seek when delivering tech-enabled healthcare in the home much like they have across the consumer tech space than Best Buy and so it seemed a natural fit for us."

O'Sullivan added, "We recognize Best Buy as being stellar guests in individuals' homes through their Geek Squad services. Patients are currently our guests in our brick-and-mortar facilities. And now the power shift really changes when we are welcomed guests over the threshold in the privacy and the comfort of our patients' homes. We also feel with that comes a tremendous amount of privilege. We will be able to drive better clinical outcomes by having direct access to the cultural context within our patients' and their families' lives."

The health system plans to adopt Best Buy's Current Health remote patient monitoring program for its home hospital services initially in the greater Boston area across five Mass General Brigham acute care hospitals, Dorner said.

The collaboration will tap into Best Buy Health's tech capabilities and Mass General Brigham's clinical expertise to build out a technology-enabled clinical delivery model that expands access to Massachusetts residents choosing to receive acute-level hospital care from home.

The health system plans to leverage Best Buy Health's technology and support services to support its at-home care services including the retailer's Lively Mobile Plus personal emergency response system (PERS) device which can detect falls and enable patients to contact an urgent response agent.

Mass General Brigham will also work with Current Health, Best Buy's care at-home platform, which offers remote patient monitoring technology and connects patients to nurses, paramedics, advanced practitioners and physicians. And, the health system will use Best Buy Health's services that enable better coordination of how home-based care is delivered and logistics management to support the patient’s broad care team.

Home hospital is a critical strategy priority for the health system for the next five years. The health system is putting a major investment in at-home care to address its hospital capacity crisis, O'Sullivan said.

"We typically run in our academic medical centers over 100% capacity so that's important for our system. Other systems may choose home hospital or healthcare-at-home strategies because of value-based care payer arrangements or other market factors. But for us, this is a pressure release valve and its desirable by consumers and patients and so it's a win-win all around in relieving some of the burden that our brick-and-mortar facilities face day in and day out," she said.

The health system also has seen increased demand and interest from patients to receive care in their homes, she noted.

"Patients absolutely love it. They feel more connected than they do in traditional brick-and-mortar settings. We're seeing incredible improvements in things as basic as sleep and ambulation and less decline in mobility and function and really greater engagement with the clinical team," O'Sullivan said.

In addition to Home Care and Home Hospital, Mass General Brigham also is exploring a home-based palliative care program as well as home hospital emergency care services, she said.

Building new tech solutions in collaboration with Best Buy

As at-home healthcare becomes more tech-driven—think wireless biosensors and connected blood pressure cuffs—it creates more logistical challenges for providers.

This is where Best Buy Health sees an opportunity for its Geek Squad, historically known more for fixing computers than working with patients. The company also is leveraging its technology and omnichannel logistics to support home-based healthcare services.

Best Buy Health has grown its remote care enterprise solution through a series of acquisitions and partnerships with companies like Current Health, which is bought for nearly $400 million two years ago, and TytoCare.

Mass General Brigham will work with Mass General Brigham to develop customized systems and capabilities to support clinicians and patients receiving Home Hospital care.

Dorner said the two organizations will collaborate on tech solutions to address the broader challenges of shifting more care to the home environment to optimize the experience for patients.

"Today, for example, there's a tremendous amount of manual processing to be able to coordinate all of the logistics and operational elements of ensuring that meals and medications and oxygen concentrators all are arriving at the right place at the right time in coordination with our staff and with patient transport on ambulances. There's no single platform, for example, that can solve for all of that. So beginning to whittle away at those problems and develop the solutions that will enable the transition of and delivery of care into the home-based environment is really what this collaboration is all about," he said.

"More people than ever before are comfortable with the idea of receiving care in their homes, but we know that bringing care across that threshold isn’t as easy as it sounds,” says Deborah Di Sanzo, president of Best Buy Health in a statement. “Together, Best Buy Health and Mass General Brigham will create long-lasting solutions that will support the rapid growth of the care-at-home market and all of those who play key roles in delivering quality care in the home to patients who need and deserve it.” 

Earlier this year, Atrium Health inked a deal with Best Buy to enhance its hospital-at-home program with advanced support for remote monitoring technology.

Geisinger doubled down on its collaboration with Best Buy's Geek Squad. A year ago, the Danville, Pennsylvania-based health system launched a pilot program to deploy Geek Squad agents to patients' homes to help install and set up healthcare devices and educate patients about the technology. Geisinger now plans to expand its partnership as part of its chronic disease management at-home program.

Along with transitioning more care to patients' homes, Mass General Brigham and Best Buy claim their partnership will support the healthcare workforce as the industry faces critical shortages among nurses and other practitioners.

The Home Hospital experience has shown an increase in employee satisfaction through innovative hybrid practice options and a reduction of clinician burnout, the organizations said.

As part of this partnership, Best Buy Health and Mass General Brigham will "engage with and make significant investments in the community" to enable the next generation of the Healthcare at Home workforce.

"To do this they will create equitable, academic opportunities for individuals interested in pursuing nursing, paramedic and digital technology careers by offering scholarships to students choosing the at-home setting of care as their desired professional environment. They will also work to bring care in the home to the forefront of curriculum within these industries to further support the growing home healthcare model," the organizations said in a press release.