Pharmacy store Walgreens goes digital with Microsoft

Will a new partnership see progress in digital healthcare?
17 January 2019

Pharmacy store Walgreens goes digital with Microsoft. Source: Shutterstock

The United States’ second-largest pharmacy group Walgreens (WBA) and Microsoft have joined forces to develop new health care delivery models, technology and retail innovations to advance and “improve the future of healthcare”.

The companies will combine the power of Microsoft Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and AI platform, healthcare investments, and new retail solutions with WBA. That includes its customer reach, convenient locations, outpatient healthcare services, and industry expertise.

The lofty aim is to make healthcare delivery more personal, affordable and accessible for people around the world.

“Improving health outcomes while lowering the cost of care is a complex challenge that requires broad collaboration and strong partnership between the health care and tech industries,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft.

“Together with Walgreens Boots Alliance, we aim to deliver on this promise by putting people at the center of their health and wellness, combining the power of the Azure cloud and AI technology and Microsoft 365 with Walgreens Boots Alliance’s deep expertise and commitment to helping communities around the world lead healthier and happier lives,” he added.

As part of the strategic partnership, the companies have committed to multiyear research and development (R&D) investment to build health care solutions, improve health outcomes and lower the cost of care. This investment will include funding, subject-matter experts, technology and tools. The companies will also explore the potential to establish joint innovation centers in key markets.

Additionally, in 2019, WBA will pilot up to 12 store-in-store “digital health corners” aimed at the merchandising and sale of select health care-related hardware and devices.

The companies will focus on connecting WBA stores and health information systems to people wherever they are through their digital devices. This will allow people to access health care services, such as virtual care — when, where and how they need it.

The integration of information will enable valuable insights based on data science and artificial intelligence (AI) that can allow for fundamental improvements such as supporting the transition of healthcare data into more community-based locations and sustainable transformation in healthcare delivery.

Working with patients’ health care providers, the companies will proactively engage their patients to improve medication adherence, reduce emergency room visits and decrease hospital re-admissions. Core to this model is data privacy, security, and consent, which will be fundamental design principles, underscored by Microsoft’s investments in building a trusted cloud platform.

Through a combination of dedicated R&D and external partnerships, a suite of chronic disease management and patient engagement applications are planned for development, alongside a portfolio of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices for nonacute chronic care management, delivered by Microsoft’s cloud, AI and IoT technologies.

Microsoft will become WBA’s strategic cloud provider, and WBA plans to migrate the majority of the company’s IT infrastructure onto Microsoft Azure.

The company also plans to roll out Microsoft 365 to more than 380,000 employees and stores globally, empowering them with the tools for increased productivity, advanced security, internal collaboration, and customer engagement.