Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Microsoft and Walgreens partner on health care

Steve Rogerson
January 23, 2019



Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) and Microsoft have joined forces to develop health care delivery models, technology and retail innovations to advance and improve the future of health care.
 
The companies will combine the power of Microsoft Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and AI platform, health care investments, and retail technology with WBA’s customer reach, convenient locations, outpatient health care services and industry expertise to make health care delivery more personal, affordable and accessible for people around the world.
 
Current health care systems are a complex combination of public- and private-sector organisations, providers, payers, pharmaceutical companies and other adjacent players. While there has been innovation in pockets of health care, there is a need and an opportunity to integrate the system, making health care more convenient to people through data-driven insights.
 
This is what brought WBA and Microsoft together. Through this strategic partnership, the companies aim to deliver innovative platforms that enable next-generation health networks, integrated digital-physical experiences and care management.
 
“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 (pictured right), CEO of Microsoft. “Together with Walgreens Boots Alliance, we aim to deliver on this promise by putting people at the centre 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.”
 
As part of the partnership, the companies have committed to a multiyear research and development investment to build health care products, 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 centres 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.
 
“Our strategic partnership with Microsoft demonstrates our strong commitment to creating integrated, next-generation, digitally enabled health care delivery for our customers, transforming our stores into modern neighbourhood health destinations and expanding customer offerings,” said Stefano Pessina (pictured left), chief executive officer of WBA. “WBA will work with Microsoft to harness the information that exists between payers 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.”
 
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 insights based on data science and artificial intelligence (AI) that can allow for improvements such as supporting the transition of health care data into more community-based locations and sustainable transformation in health care delivery.
 
Working with patients’ health care providers, the companies plan to engage their patients proactively to improve medication adherence, reduce emergency room visits and decrease hospital readmissions. 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.
 
WBA and Microsoft will also focus on enabling more personalised health care experiences from preventative self-care to chronic disease management. WBA will pursue lifestyle management in areas such as nutrition and wellness via customers’ delivery method of choice, including digital devices and digital applications or in-store expert advice.
 
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 IoT devices for non-acute chronic care management, delivered by Microsoft’s cloud, AI and IoT technologies.
 
Additionally, the companies will work to build a seamless ecosystem of participating organisations to connect consumers, providers – including Walgreens and Boots pharmacists – pharmaceutical manufacturers and payers. Microsoft and WBA will leverage each other’s market research and identify the right partners to develop technology.
 
For example, health care delivery network participation will provide the opportunity for people to engage seamlessly in WBA health care and acute care providers all within a single platform.
 
Through this agreement, Microsoft becomes WBA’s strategic cloud provider, and WBA plans to migrate the majority of the company’s IT infrastructure onto Microsoft Azure. This will include transformational platforms in retail, pharmacy and business services, capability in data and analytics, as well as certain legacy applications and systems. 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.
 
WBA’s transition to Microsoft’s platform will help WBA accelerate its speed to market, gain deeper customer understanding and insights, and provide better and more personalised care, products and services to its customers and communities. In addition, the move to Microsoft Azure should accelerate the modernisation and cost effectiveness of technology across WBA.