WBA collaborates with Microsoft

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DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens Boots Alliance announced it is teaming up with Microsoft to make health care delivery more personal, affordable and accessible for people around the world.

The collaboration will combine WBA’s customer reach, convenient locations, outpatient health care services and industry expertise with the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform and services.

“Our strategic partnership with Microsoft demonstrates our 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,” said Stefano Pessina, WBA’s executive vice chairman and chief executive officer. “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.”

WBA is the latest retailer to ally with the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform and services. Kroger Co. this month said it is collaborating with Microsoft to test new technologies to make it easier for shoppers to find and purchase items in grocery stores. The companies are piloting stores near their respective headquarters, in Ohio and Washington, featuring smart shelves with digital shelving displays with real-time price updates and product information, as well as digital advertisements personalized to each shopper. Video analytics systems will alert store associates to low inventories. Microsoft and Kroger will jointly market the technology to other retailers, the companies said.

For WBA, the Microsoft alliance will help the retailer connect its stores and health information systems with shoppers through their digital devices. This will allow customers to access health care services, including virtual care — when, where and how they need it, according to WBA. 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, WBA said.

Working with patients’ health care providers, the companies will proactively engage their patients to improve medication adherence, reduce emergency room visits and decrease hospital readmissions, WBA said. 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. By better connecting people, providers and the systems in which they work, the industry will be able to provide better quality patient care.

WBA and Microsoft will also focus on enabling more personalized health care experiences from preventative self-care to chronic disease management. WBA will pursue lifestyle management solutions 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 research and development 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 devices for nonacute chronic care management, delivered by Microsoft’s cloud, AI and IoT ­technologies.

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 payers. Microsoft and WBA will leverage each other’s market research and identify the right partners to develop ­solutions.

For example, major health care delivery network participation will provide the opportunity for people to seamlessly engage in WBA health care solutions 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 its IT infrastructure onto Microsoft Azure. This will include new transformational platforms in retail, pharmacy and business services, new capability in data and analytics, as well as certain legacy applications and systems. WBA said it 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.



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