Smart home key to keeping seniors healthy at home, say execs at CES

During the Digital Health Summit at CES, Best Buy Health president Asheesh Saksena and GreatCall CEO David Inns talked about how technology like the smart home can be used to help seniors live independently.

Senior Woman Alone in Dark Room.

Last year, Best Buy made headlines when it bought GreatCall, maker of health products like the “Jitterbug” phone for seniors, from private equity firm GTCR for $800 million. Since then, the retailer has continued to boost its healthcare chops. It recently tapped Asheesh Saksena as president of Best Buy Health. In the role, he spearheads the company’s health strategy and focuses on using technology to help seniors live independently.

During the Digital Health Summit at CES in Las Vegas, Saksena and GreatCall CEO David Inns spoke about the deal and how technology can be used to help older adults and their caregivers.

Moderator Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, a health economist and advisor, opened the session by asking about the background of the transaction.

Saksena said Best Buy was thinking about how to bring healthcare into the home. But given the size of the market, the retailer knew it needed to focus on a specific area, which ended up being seniors. After surveying the landscape, it found GreatCall was a good fit.

But helping seniors live independently involves more than the cell phones, medical alert devices and health and safety apps that GreatCall offers. Saksena pointed out that it takes a mix of elements for older adults to live alone. “Some of them are technology-based, some of them are not,” he said, noting that Best Buy is aiming to glean a comprehensive understanding of what it takes for seniors to live on their own.

With that in mind, there’s potential when it comes to the smart home. Inns said “there’s a lot of work that can be done to customize the smart home solution” so it helps seniors and their caregivers. The rise of voice tech can also play a role in assisting the aging population. Inns said he believes “we’ve seen the penetration of Amazon” into the homes of seniors.

Ultimately, Best Buy and GreatCall hope to assist not only to seniors and caregivers but also to other healthcare stakeholders like payers and providers. With that in mind, the companies see potential collaborations with other organizations in the future. For instance, Inns pointed to potential partnerships with technology companies.

“It is extremely clear that it can’t be done alone,” Saksena said.

Additionally, the companies hope to leverage predictive abilities. One useful example is using data to predict if a senior could fall in their home. Preventing that type of situation will keep individuals healthier and keep costs lower.

Photo: CasarsaGuru, Getty Images