Oracle OpenWorld 2014: Walgreens and Dunnhumby look to digital health in the cloud

US retailer Walgreens and customer science firm Dunnhumby are moving further into the health and wellbeing market with cloud

US retailer Walgreens and customer science company Dunnhumby are each moving further into the health and wellbeing market using the cloud.

CIOs from the two companies described how the cloud is becoming a driver in the healthcare market during a keynote at Oracle’s OpenWorld conference in San Francisco this week.

Walgreens CIO Tim Theriault said the US is facing a healthcare crisis – it needs to reduce costs, improve outcomes and deliver better customer experience.  

The retailer is moving further into healthcare, including immunisations for diseases such as flu, which could be a good business opportunity because 65% of Americans live within three miles of a Walgreens store.

Theriault described how Walgreens’ health cloud will allow staff to perform clinical services in-store and at customers’ homes, while being able to share details with doctors and hospital systems.

Walgreens, which serves eight million customers each day, recently merged with Alliance Boots to go global in pharmaceuticals. Theriault said the merger owed much thanks to its relationship with Oracle.

Walgreens is currently investing heavily in all of its core systems, but is having to do more with a smaller IT budget. “What’s exciting is that today’s technology will allow us to do it with a lot of enthusiasm,” he said. “The innovation is up, but that doesn’t mean budget goes up – so that really is innovation.”

Wearable tech offers big data opportunities

Meanwhile, Yael Cosset, CIO at Dunnhumby – the company which provides customer insight data to retailers and brands – said it is investing a lot of energy into “new data”, a term he uses to describe data created from wearable devices.

“It’s a new set of opportunities for retail partners to deliver new services and new engagement opportunities around health and wellness, and to help lead a better life around complying with budget constraints,” he said.

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Cosset said Dunnhumby is likely to spend more time and effort in this market, developing a lot more services around health and wellness.

This summer, the company launched a project to globalise its back-office business processes using Oracle Fusion cloud. Rather than depend on managing multiple cloud providers, Dunnhumby decided to have one database system and one software partner.

Cosset said understanding retail customers and fine-tuning the data it gains from its retailers is extremely challenging because of the volume of data and its granularity.

Cloud offers Dunnhumby a scalable home for its data, while also being able to offer retailers – including Tesco and Coca-Cola – the ability to interact with customers digitally in real time.

“You won’t need it five days from now, but right now,” said Cosset. “So the science on that data needs real time, as well as seamless integration at scale with hundreds of millions consumers. You need a technology platform to scale with you.”

Cloud offers flexibility at a lower cost

Oracle CEO Mark Hurd said during the keynote that the cloud is exploding in front of our eyes, while consumers are becoming more sophisticated.

He said IT organisations need to change how they work to enable employees and customers. “They will want to work the way they want to work, and buy the way they want to buy,” he said. “They will want it the way they want it, where they want it and when they want it.”

The challenge for CEOs and IT departments is their budgets are stagnant or, in some cases, going down, Hurd said.

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