Best Buy enlarges health tech footprint with Tyto Care expansion, connected fitness products (updated)

Best Buy is dramatically increasing its wellness profile with two announcements around digital health. The first is today’s announcement of a further rollout of retailing Tyto Care’s TytoHome device and platform in select Best Buy stores in California, Ohio, North Dakota, and South Dakota. This adds to the previously announced Minnesota locations [TTA 17 Apr] for a total of 30, as well as nationwide via BestBuy.com. In Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Tyto Care connects to Sanford Health doctors 24/7. In California and Ohio, as well as for online sales, Tyto Care partners with LiveHealth Online, part of American Well, except for users in Louisiana and Mississippi who will be covered by Ochsner Health System. Each visit is a maximum of $59, which may be less depending on the patient’s insurance plan or the type of visit. Tyto Care is also offering the plan through LiveHealth Online to select employers. Release.

Tyto Home is a handheld examination device with attachments that can examine the heart, lungs, skin, ears, throat, and abdomen, plus body temperature. The captured information can be sent or examined live by a primary care provider.

Best Buy is also betting that people also will flock to their stores to sample connected fitness, most with virtual classes and coaching. Last week they highlighted five: Flywheel Sports, an indoor cycle with online classes; Hydrow, a rowing machine with virtual classes on real-life bodies of water; NordicTrack, with a line of treadmills, bikes, rowers and strength training machines with virtual classes; NormaTec, a digital compression recovery system; and Hyperice, which produces a range of recovery tools like massagers. The digital fitness market is massive–estimated by Piper Jaffray at around $5 billion today, over double from 2016’s $2.1 billion. Mobihealthnews, CNN Business

This adds to a Best Buy digital health profile that includes the Big Buy of GreatCall last year and Critical Signal Technologies monitoring last month to add senior remote monitoring devices to their portfolio. This is not without pitfalls. Earlier this month, Best Buy was sued for a defect found in its GreatCall Lively MobilePlus mobile PERS that in action failed to detect falls as described, after GreatCall discontinued the device in mid-May in what a letter from their CEO David Inns described as an “important safety recall,” offering buyers a Jitterbug flip phone or a full refund. But Best Buy is hedging its bets on tech with higher price-point connected fitness exercise machines and wearables which will attract higher end buyers into stores and online.

International news roundup: ATA dispatches, compete for funding in Helsinki, Spry FDA-cleared for COPD, Merck acquires ConnectMed Kenya

There’s not much news so far from the just-wrapped ATA 2019 conference in New Orleans, but POLITICO Morning eHealth highlighted a drop-by by Sen. Bill Cassidy from Louisiana, urging attendees to demonstrate to their local politicos that telemedicine is safe and effective–and be ready to answer questions about fraud or misuse. Louisiana’s Ochsner Health System is branching into retail with the O Bar, cleverly designed to look like an Apple Store to merchandise wearables and other health tech devices. For Ochsner patients, they can enroll into RPM programs and have their data directly input into their Epic EHR. American Well released a survey of 800 doctors, with the unsurprising finding that 22 percent have used telehealth to treat patients, but this is up 340 percent since 2015; also that the doctors finding telehealth most attractive to practice are also reporting high levels of burnout. Looking for more substantiative news from NOLA.

It’s Helsinki for pitching your digital health idea in June. The 11th edition of the interestingly named EC2VC Investors Forum and Pitch Competition is now part of HIMSS/ Health 2.0 Europe 2019. Healthcare startups and SMEs looking for funding can apply, with 12 companies to be selected to present before a jury panel of digital health investors. The format is a four-minute pitch, followed by six minutes of Q&A. More information and to apply by 6 May, with finalists selected by 13 May. The event is 11 June from 13:00 to 16:00 at Messukeskus Helsinki Expo & Convention Centre. 

Spry Health’s Loop wearable device gained FDA clearance. Spry is a RPM device company with a wrist-wearable device that measures pulse oximetry, respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure (research only) through optical sensors. While users can receive reports on the display and alerts, it is primarily meant for clinical monitoring by physicians in healthcare systems. The RPM is meant to detect signs of patient deterioration and exacerbations early so that actions can be taken. For the present time, the company is focusing on the device’s use in COPD patients. Certainly there is a large market in the US–there are 12 million diagnosed patients, with COPD the third leading cause of death with over 120,000 deaths per year. Mobihealthnews, BusinessWire, MDDIOnline

Merck acquires Kenyan digital health startup ConnectMed. The pharma company is purchasing ConnectMed’s telehealth applications in Kenya serving about 8,000 consumers, as well as related management systems. Merck will use the platform in conjunction with its Curafa point of care clinical and pharmaceutical services. Started in September of last year, these are run by local independent pharmaceutical technologists, clinical officers and nurses for underserved populations in Kenya. ConnectMed will cease operations. During its lifetime, it developed three DTC digital health services in Kenya and South Africa. WT/Startup Africa