Walgreens Partnership with Microsoft Makes Digital Health Possible

Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) is bent on digital health domination and their recently announced collaboration with tech-giant Microsoft will help them do just that.

“Our strategic partnership with Microsoft demonstrates our strong commitment to creating integrated, next-generation, digitally enabled healthcare delivery solutions for our customers, transforming our stores into modern neighborhood health destinations and expanding customer offerings,” Stefano Pessina, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, said in a January statement.

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The companies will combine resources to create a research and development investment initiative to build better health care technologies, improve health outcomes and make care more affordable. The joint venture will include capital investment, industry expertise and shared technology. The deal will kick-off with WBA’s 12-store pilot project of “digital health corners” that will showcase healthcare-related technology and devices.

“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,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. “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 deep expertise and commitment to helping communities around the world lead healthier and happier lives.”

WBA’s focus on coalition-building is novel for an industry intent on buying their way into a bigger market stake. Competitor CVS is an example of this with their $70 billion acquisition of healthcare insurance provider Aetna. Amazon.com also joined the fray with their recent purchase of Pillpack.com for $775 million. Both CVS and Amazon.com are making their bid for controlling interest in the digital health sector and are prepared to use their considerable capital assets to make that happen.

Walgreens Boots Alliance is proving to be the buy-out black sheep, however, and has signed agreements with several strategically-valuable companies over the last year. Recently announced partnerships with health insurer Humana to collaborate on in-store health clinics and Verily Life Sciences for deployment of their technology in retail-pharmacy locations reflect WBA’s bid for market-mastery.

Walgreens Boots Alliance is the largest retail pharmacy chain offering health and daily-living goods and services across Europe and the United States. The retailer runs 18,500 stores and boasts a strong online and mobile healthcare base that generated an estimated $1.69 billion in web sales. In addition, more than 50 million customers have downloaded the Walgreens app with 200 million of the company’s 1 billion monthly prescriptions being filled online.