CVS Health and Microsoft Link Up to Speed Healthcare’s Digital Shift on Retail’s Frontlines

CVS Health

Connected healthcare keeps making new connections as firms from different parts of the business world join forces to drive greater digital transformation for millions of consumers.

New evidence of the gathering trend comes from CVS Health and Microsoft, which on Thursday (Dec. 2) jointly announced an initiative combining Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform with deep CVS data to create personalized care options for 100 million CVS shoppers.

In a statement, CVS Health Chief Information Officer Roshan Navagamuwa said, “We are rapidly transforming into a consumer-centric, integrated health solutions company, taking a digital-first, technology forward approach to all that we do. Business services at this scale requires a new level of partnership. Our collaboration with Microsoft will accelerate this work and empower our employees to provide quality care that is more personal and affordable.”

Coupling cloud agility with the wealth of consumer healthcare and pharmacy data from CVS Health are critical to providing “omnichannel pharmacy capabilities and [delivering] customized health recommendations when and where consumers need them,” the statement said.

As part of the effort, “CVS Health will also scale up retail loyalty and personalization programs that use advanced Machine Learning models” now running on Microsoft Azure.

With patients acting more like paying customers after COVID, retail chains including CVS and Walmart have a lot to gain by positioning themselves as digital-first healthcare providers.

According to The Access Channel: How Healthcare Financing Keeps Patients Engaged, a PYMNTS report with research sponsored by CareCredit, “many consumers want healthcare providers to improve their customer experiences in tangible ways. They now want healthcare providers to offer digital tools that make it easier for them to pay for healthcare services.”

Get the study: The Access Channel: How Healthcare Financing Keeps Patients Engaged

Omnichannel ‘Omnicare’

The omnichannel healthcare model — sometimes referred to as “omnicare” — is catching on from physicians to pharmacies, as operations like CVS Health and rival Walmart Health innovate with national networks of in-person clinics, telehealth platforms and pharmacy benefits management in ways that traditional medical practices may find difficult to compete with.

Customer/patient experience is crucial to the success of relatively new healthcare offerings springing from major pharmacy chains which already have a significant healthcare footprint.

“In addition to creating a more personalized and seamless experience for consumers, data science will also be used to improve access to care and health outcomes,” per the statement.

CVS Health is already using Azure for automation in cognitive services like Computer Vision and Text Analytics for Health. It will also use the Microsoft Teams video collaboration platform.

CVS Health has digitized intake using these services — including the 40% of prescriptions that arrive as paper or fax — helping technicians fill prescriptions faster and easier than previous methods. Microsoft will continue to expand and partner with CVS Health to reimagine and simplify processes, as part of CVS Health’s technology-driven digitalization program.

Commenting on the five-year partnership, CVS Health President and CEO Karen Lynch told Forbes, “It’s really about that mobility about having your health information available at your fingertips and allowing us as a company to be a part of your digital health.”

Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella added that it is “not about the technology we bring” in itself, but rather the “technology (Microsoft) brings to help CVS build their own technology.” 

Walmart Health has made similar moves in the nascent “omnicare” space.

Speaking with Karen Webster, Bill Goodwin, CEO of telehealth platform MeMD acquired by Walmart Health in May, said the company is “focused towards omnichannel delivery. We want to bring the care to people in the way they want to consume it in a way that they can afford it.”

See also: Post Walmart Acquisition, MeMD CEO Shares Vision for Omnicare Healthcare Delivery Model