(Reuters) – Drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc and Microsoft Corp said on Tuesday they have entered a seven-year agreement to research and develop new methods of delivering healthcare services through digital devices.

As a part of the deal, the companies will focus on virtually connecting people with Walgreens stores and provide services on therapeutic areas ranging from preventative self-care to chronic disease management.

Early last year, Amazon.com Inc, Berkshire Hathaway Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co had said they will form a company that could eventually negotiate directly with drugmakers and healthcare providers and use their vast databases to get a better handle on costs.

Walgreens and Microsoft will also develop healthcare solutions to reduce emergency room visits and decrease hospital readmissions while lowering the cost of care, the companies said.

The drugstore chain said it will pilot up to 12 stores, which will sell select healthcare-related devices, in 2019.

Microsoft will become Walgreens’ cloud provider through the agreement and the Microsoft 365 software will be rolled out to more than 380,000 Walgreens employees and stores globally.

(Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)