Walgreens and Microsoft join forces in healthcare delivery alliance

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Walgreens and Microsoft join forces in healthcare delivery alliance

By Marianne Wilson - 01/15/2019
Walgreens Boots Alliance and Microsoft Corp. have entered into a seven-year partnership as each company looks to gain ground against an expanding Amazon.

The goal of the alliance is “to develop new health care delivery models, technology and retail innovations to advance and improve the future of health care,” the two companies stated in a joint announcement. The partnership will allow the companies to deliver “innovative platforms that enable next-generation health networks, integrated digital-physical experiences and care management solutions.”

Under the alliance, Microsoft will become Walgreens Boots Alliance’s (WBA) main cloud provider and the drug store company will migrate most of its IT infrastructure onto Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing software. The company also plans to roll out Microsoft 365 (including Office 365, Windows 10, and mobility and security tools) to more than 380,000 employees and stores globally.

“WBA’s transition to Microsoft’s platform will enable WBA to accelerate its speed to market, gain deeper customer understanding and insights, and ultimately provide better and more personalized care, products and services to its customers and communities,” the companies stated.

This is the latest in a spate of big retail cloud wins for Microsoft, which competes in that arena against Amazon Web Services. In December, Gap Inc. selected Microsoft’s cloud portfolio to drive its digital transformation strategy. Most recently, Microsoft and The Kroger Co. announced they were teaming up on a futuristic grocery store pilot.

As part of the new partnership, WBA will pilot in-store “digital health corners” in up to 12 of its locations this year. The in-store centers will be aimed at the merchandising and sale of select health care-related hardware and devices.

The WBA-Microsoft deal comes at a critical juncture for the drug store industry and health care industry, both of which are being disrupted by new players and alliances. CVS Health recently completed its acquisition of health insurer giant Aetna. Last year, Amazon purchased online pharmacy PillPack and also partnered with JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway to provide new healthcare solutions to employees of the three companies.

Stefano Pessina, executive vice chairman and CEO of WBA, said that the company’s partnership with Microsoft demonstrates “its strong commitment to creating integrated, next-generation, digitally enabled health care delivery solutions for our customers, transforming our stores into modern neighborhood health destinations and expanding customer offerings,”

“WBA will work with Microsoft to harness the information that exists between payors and health care providers to leverage — in the interest of patients and with their consent — our extraordinary network of accessible and convenient locations to deliver new innovations, greater value and better health outcomes in health care systems across the world,” Pessina said.

The companies said they 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 health care data into more community-based locations and sustainable transformation in health care delivery,” the two companies stated.

Additionally, the companies will work to build a “seamless ecosystem” of participating organizations to better connect consumers, providers — including Walgreens and Boots pharmacists — pharmaceutical manufacturers and payors. Microsoft and WBA will leverage each other’s market research and identify the right partners to develop solutions.

“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.”

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