Just the other day, my doctor and I were discussing how much more accessible healthcare is becoming. He then told me about the Walgreens/VillageMD alliance (announced in July 2020) that is further accelerating this trend.
The latest announcement might not sound like as obvious a pairing as the Walgreens/VillageMD collaboration. Still, it's a pairing that makes perfect sense: Best Buy (NYSE: BBY), a consumer electronics retailer, is buying Current Health, a care-at-home technology platform.
At-home healthcare consists of remote patient monitoring (RPM) and telehealth, both of which require consumer-friendly technology products that people can buy at, you guessed it, Best Buy. The Best Buy/Current Health merger can "create a holistic care ecosystem that shows up for someone across all of their healthcare needs," said the president of Best Buy Health, Deborah Di Sanzo.
Healthcare at home
Technology makes it possible for healthcare to happen at home. Best Buy already sells some types of smart health products, and Current Health will round out what Best Buy offers. Current Health aids the transition to home healthcare by offering a platform to support early warning alerts, video visits, and wearable monitoring, all of which healthcare providers can facilitate.
Retail and health merge
Consumers are expecting easier access to healthcare -- from healthcare providers, such as Village Medical doctors' offices being attached to local Walgreens drugstores, to mobile monitoring devices being sold at a place like Best Buy. Doing these things increases access to healthcare for more people by meeting patients wherever they are. Dollar General, for example, offers healthcare and serves people who live in rural areas.
About RPM and telehealth
RPM consists of home-based or mobile monitoring devices -- often wearable medical devices -- that send vital-sign information to a healthcare professional via the internet. This allows a physician to monitor a patient's vital signs and act on the information if necessary. These devices can relay data such as blood sugar, blood oxygen, and glucose levels and heart rate.
Telehealth is a broader term that encompasses the use of telephone, email, and RPM devices. It's the entire system of remote healthcare using technology.
A recent acquisition concerns Target and CVS Pharmacies. In January 2020, CVS bought Target's pharmacy and clinic business, spending about $1.9 billion to acquire 1,672 pharmacies. In addition, 79 Target clinics were rebranded as MinuteClinics (which CVS bought in 2006). CVS has also merged with Aetna, which sells healthcare insurance, and plans to transform hundreds of CVS drugstores into HealthHUBS.
Amazon and Google are also getting into the act. Amazon bought online pharmacy start-up PillPack and partnered with Accenture and Merck to create a data-driven drug development platform.
Google has a four-pronged approach regarding digital health: data generation, disease detection using artificial intelligence, disease and lifestyle management (such as acquiring Fitbit), and investing in biotech start-ups.
The Millionacres bottom line
The real estate trend of merging retail and healthcare is just beginning. Expect to see more partnerships in the future as people are no longer content with the old barriers to healthcare and, instead, welcome these new collaborations. The expectation is better healthcare, which leads to the improved health of the population. Keep this trend in mind when considering an investment in healthcare.