Walgreens Boots Alliance, which owns the Boots the Chemist pharmacy chain in the UK, has announced a partnership with Microsoft that will involve the roll-out of Microsoft 365 to 380,000 of its 415,000 staff worldwide.
However, in addition to that, the company is also planning to work with Microsoft to “harness the information that exists between payors and health care providers”, according to Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) CEO Stefano Pessina.
According to Microsoft, the deal will involve the two companies developing “new health care delivery models, technology and retail innovations to advance and improve the future of healthcare”.
The initiative will encompass Microsoft’s artificial intelligence platform, health care investments and retail solutions along with WBA’s customer reach, outpatient services and industry expertise. The results of the initiative will run on Microsoft’s Azure cloud.
It’s not clear what direct relevance the deal will have to the UK, given its predominantly public-sector health system, although it could mean Microsoft providing NHS infrastructure in the cloud via Azure.
“Through this strategic partnership, the companies will deliver innovative platforms that enable next-generation health networks, integrated digital-physical experiences and care management solutions,” claimed the statement announcing the move.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella added: “Improving health outcomes while lowering the cost of care is a complex challenge that requires broad collaboration and strong partnership between the healthcare and tech industries.”
The tie-up will involve what Microsoft describes as a multi-year research and development investment to build healthcare solutions, as well as to lower costs of care and “improve health outcomes”.
The two companies may also open-up joint innovation centres in certain markets. WBA, meanwhile, will pilot up to 12 in-store ‘digital health corners’ to sell health care related devices, which presumably means shops selling wearables such as Fitbits or their Microsoft equivalents.
Retailers keen to adopt cloud services, meanwhile, are wary of opting for Amazon Web Services (AWS) given Amazon’s all-encompassing retail ambitions. In addition to helping a rival or potential rival, retailers fear that putting their systems into the AWS cloud could give the company key insights into the health of their business or business sector.