Boots and Microsoft tie up seven-year technology deal

Walgreens Boots Alliance and Microsoft have signed a seven-year deal to develop technology solutions and support new digital innovations in healthcare.

Using Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) platform, the aim is to develop various products, facilities, and tools aimed at making healthcare more personal, affordable and accessible for people around the world.
In a joint statement, the companies said they believe there is a need and an opportunity to better integrate and simplify the healthcare system using data-driven insights and exploring the potential of technology in the space.

As part of the strategic partnership, the companies have committed to a multi-year research and development process, which will result in new innovation centres opening in markets all around the world. On the pure retail side, in 2019 Walgreens Boots Alliance will pilot up to 12 store-in-store “digital health corners” aimed at the merchandising and sale of select healthcare-related hardware and devices.

Stefano Pessina, executive vice chairman and CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, remarked: “We will work with Microsoft to harness the information that exists between payors and healthcare 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 stores and health information systems to people wherever they are through their digital devices, in what could lead to a major shake-up of the healthcare system which has tended to be low-tech in terms of consumer interactions with doctors, hospitals and pharmacies.

Both businesses have claimed the integration of information will enable valuable insights based on data science and AI that that could transition the use of healthcare data into more community-based locations. They also committed to data security, consumer privacy and consent, acknowledging this will be fundamental to the success of the efforts.
Through the agreement, Microsoft will become Walgreen Boot Alliance's strategic cloud provider, and the retailer plans to migrate the majority of its IT infrastructure onto Azure. This will lead to what it described as new transformational platforms in retail, pharmacy and business services.

As part of the deal, Walgreens Boots Alliance will also introduce Microsoft 365 to more than 380,000 employees and stores globally.