At a time when the story of Theranos — the unicorn startup that developed finger-prick blood testing that was rolled out to Walgreens stores before the company was criticized for fraudulent practices and shut down — is captivating the nation, home health device makers are turning to retailers to get their own machines into the hands of consumers.
Best Buy today announced the expansion of its reach into healthcare with sales of a new device, TytoHome. It allows users to measure certain information like body temperature readings, upper respiratory recordings and throat scans, among others, and send them to a telehealth clinician or their own physician or nurse.
The handheld device, which also employs a smartphone app, is available for $299.99 on BestBuy.com for all customers and in select Minnesota Best Buy stores, with sales coming soon to stores in North Dakota, South Dakota, California and Ohio, according to a press release Tyto Care emailed to Retail Dive. Best Buy's Geek Squad will eventually be employed to support users, Tyto Care CEO and co-founder Dedi Gilad told Retail Dive in an interview.
Target, meanwhile, began selling at-home test kits this month from startup EverlyWell for medical diagnoses including Lyme disease, fertility, menopause and certain sexually transmitted diseases, according to an EverlyWell press release emailed to Retail Dive. The retailer is offering nine EverlyWell products in 1,600 stores.
Tyto Care and EverlyWell both seem geared toward simplifying healthcare by providing products that patients can use at home in order to facilitate diagnoses more easily and cheaply. The Theranos story doesn't seem to be casting much of a cloud over those efforts, either.
For Tyto, that's because these devices have grown through the regulatory due diligence that Theranos never did, according to Gilad. "Ours is completely different and a different use case," he said when asked about the Theranos debacle. "Our core promise to the consumer is that we allow you to get the best medical service by a licensed professional. We are a full medical device — highly regulated by the FDA, and cleared by the FDA and other regulators to market in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Tyto is not recommending any treatment. We always give the data to a clinician."
EverlyWell CEO and founder Julia Cheek also said the company isn't trying to upend basic medical testing. "The EverlyWell platform connects consumers to physicians and lab tests that are already-validated and available through 3rd-party certified lab partners but with price and results transparency," she told Retail Dive in an email. "EverlyWell is not creating new or novel medical devices or lab tests."
The devices may bring relief to patients facing ever-escalating healthcare costs and higher-deductible insurance plans that often don't cover expensive tests. A TytoHome telehealth visit is $59, possibly less if health insurance covers medical phone consultations, the company said. Tyto Care works with LiveHealth Online, which is an offer for those who buy the devices at BestBuy.com and live outside of current coverage areas. Otherwise, the company is partnering with regional healthcare systems to provide medical care to consumers throughout the country, according to the release. That includes not-for-profit healthcare system Sanford Health for users in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
The TytoHome partnership is Best Buy's latest step into the health space. Last year, the company acquired GreatCall, which provides tech-enabled emergency response services to the aging population. These moves are a natural fit for the consumer electronics retailer, which has differentiated itself with tech expertise and support, according to Stephen Baker, vice president and technology industry analyst at The NPD Group.
"The future of many segments of [consumer electronics] is going to be to add your services on top of hardware, or enable someone else's services through your sale of their hardware," he told Retail Dive in an email. "Medical is clearly a huge opportunity to implement this strategy and Best Buy is well positioned to sell these types of devices as they are one of the few CE hardware sellers with the service capabilities and the hardware reach to implement this."
The partnership with Best Buy is Tyto's first with a retailer, and the move is key, Gilad said, in large part thanks to Best Buy's service-oriented approach to tech, along with its access to consumers. "We are sitting in between mass consumers and service providers like health systems," he told Retail Dive. "Before Best Buy we sold only to B2B partners like health organizations. Best Buy has the ability with their Geek Squad to do on-boarding and explain complex technology, and it helps us on the logistics and fulfillment side."
EverlyWell's Cheek similarly said that its Target partnership helps get kits into consumer hands. "EverlyWell's mission is to provide access to affordable, insightful and life-changing lab tests," she said. "Being able to partner with a national retail brand and offer lab tests where people already shop is a huge benefit for consumers and a big leap forward for our mission."
The tie-up also helps Best Buy "get a very good 360 degree view of the consumer," according to Rajeev Kapoor, M&A partner at Ernst & Young. "Best Buy is indeed up on consumer tech and does have a huge amount of customer data around it," he told Retail Dive in an email. "The beauty of the solution is their retail footprint ... We will continue to see more retailers getting into spot checks for health."
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of Target stores EverlyWell test kits would be sold in. The test kits will be in 1,600 Target stores.