Walgreens, Microsoft partner for new cloud-based consumer health initiative

The companies will use Azure to expand and develop new platforms and networks for digital health, care management and patient engagement – and compete against companies such as Amazon.
By Mike Miliard
12:36 PM
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Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Stefano Pessina and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Walgreens Boots Alliance and Microsoft are partnering for a project they say will lead new delivery models and technology for consumer health – and will offer new competition as companies such as Amazon continue to make inroads in the healthcare space.

The collaboration will be based around Microsoft's Azure cloud and artificial intelligence platoform, and will take shape through various new investments and retail innovations for access to outpatient healthcare, the companies say.

WHY IT MATTERS
The partnership between Microsoft and WBA has many facets. It will enable consumers to access health services and virtual care via their smartphones. It will focus on AI-powered data analytics for population health and the expansion of access into more community-based locations. It will focus on engaging with provider organizations to help improve medication adherence, reduce visits to the ER and lower hospital readmissions.

Microsoft's Azure platform – onto which Walgreens will migrate most of its IT infrastructure –will help with managing privacy and consent, the companies say, and will enable more personalized care experiences from preventative self-care to chronic disease management. WBA will leverage the cloud for wellness and lifestyle management programs delivered via digital applications, and the companies plan to co-develop other apps and IoT devices for chronic care management and patient engagement.

The companies say they'll also be working to build out a collaborative ecosystem of payers, providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers to help with the development of new pop health strategies and technologies.

THE LARGER TREND
This collaboration is just the latest sign that the consumerization of healthcare – and the trend of care delivery being reshaped by traditionally consumer-facing companies – is here to stay. The past year has seen major new partnerships and realignments – CVS Health's acquisition of Aetna, Amazon's alliance with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase, the interoperability initiative launched by Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce – that promise to change the way healthcare operates in the U.S.

Whether they're changing the scale and reach of technology vendors, or the operational strategies of more traditional providers and payers, these new collaborations point to a new normal for healthcare in the age of the consumer.

ON THE RECORD
"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 Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "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."

Stefano Pessina, executive vice chairman and chief executive officer of WBA, added that the partnership, focused on "integrated, next-generation, digitally enabled healthcare delivery," will help "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."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.