Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) has entered into a seven-year agreement with Microsoft to research and develop new ways of offering healthcare services through digital devices.

Under the agreement, the firms will combine the power of Microsoft’s cloud and AI platform Azure, and new retail solutions with WBA’s customer reach, convenient locations, outpatient health care services.

This strategic partnership aims to provide services in therapeutic areas including preventative self-care and chronic disease management.

“Through this agreement, Microsoft will become Walgreens’ cloud provider and the Microsoft 365 software will be launched across Walgreens stores.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: “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.

“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.”

The firms have committed to invest in multiyear research and development (R&D) to develop health care solutions and boost health outcomes whilst reducing the cost of care.

This investment will consist of funding, technology, tools and subject-matter experts.

Furthermore, the firms will look at ways to potentially set up joint innovation centres in some important markets.

This year, WBA will pilot up to 12 store-in-store “digital health corners” for the sale of some health care-related hardware and devices.

WBA chief executive officer and executive vice chairman Stefano Pessina said: “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 neighbourhood health destinations and expanding customer offerings.

“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.”

The firms aim to connect WBA stores and health information systems to people wherever they are through their digital devices. This service will help people to access virtual care whenever and wherever they require it.

Due to the integration of information, valuable insights can be drawn based on data science and artificial intelligence (AI). This is essential to make fundamental improvements that support the transition of health care data into more community-based locations, and ultimately transform the health care delivery.

Through R&D and external partnerships, a host of chronic disease management and patient engagement applications are being planned for development, alongside a portfolio of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices for nonacute chronic care management, delivered by cloud, AI and IoT technologies of Microsoft.

The new  healthcare solutions will help to cut down emergency room visits and hospital readmissions.

Through this agreement, Microsoft will become Walgreens’ cloud provider and the Microsoft 365 software will be launched across Walgreens stores.