The Five W's and an H of Microservices in Healthcare

The Five W's and an H of Microservices in Healthcare

Posted on March 28, 2018 0 Comments
The Five Ws and an H of Microservices in Healthcare_870x450

There are many benefits to using microservices in your healthcare applications. Learn more about microservices and how you can start taking advantage.

What are Microservices?

Microservices are more than just a development technique; they are almost a philosophy. Microservices are used to develop applications not piece by piece, but by building all the pieces simultaneously in different teams. They are a special implementation approach for service-oriented architectures (SOA) used to build flexible, independently deployable software systems. Using microservices shortens the time to market, and also allows the system to be constantly improved in a much more scalable manner.

Services in the microservice architecture are processes that communicate over the network in order to accomplish their own distinctive goals. They need to be fine-grained—stripped down to basic business functions—while the protocols have to be lightweight (for example: uploading photos or creating a user profile in a library). The microservice architecture enables the continuous deployment and delivery of complex applications, thus enabling organizations to improve their tech stack on the go.

Why Use Microservices and not a Monolithic Architecture?

A monolithic application describes a single-tiered software application. Its main characteristic is how the user interface and data access code are combined into a single program from a single platform. Although it was popular in the past, there are a number of reasons why you should make the shift to microservices.

There are several downsides to using monolithic architecture. Among them are how its size is simultaneously too large to allow for quick and effective changes or a rapid start-up time, while at the same time it is more limited in functionality than a microservice architecture would be.

Along with the issues concerning its size, developers have to redeploy the entire application on each update. Continuous deployment is difficult, and monolithic applications have difficulties adopting new tech. Changes in frameworks or languages will affect the entire application, thus making it very expensive.

All of the problems that monolithic applications face can be resolved with a transfer to microservices.

Who Can Help You Get Started?

The philosophy of microservices equals the Unix philosophy and is explained with one simple sentence: Do one thing and do it well. Each microservice is elastic, volatile, composable, minimal and complete. The services are small & fine-grained to perform a single function. The organization should embrace automation of testing and deployment, thus allowing for different development teams to work on independently deployable units of code.

Because of this, you should carefully consider which IT partner you will embark upon this path with.


Is it redundant to say now? 2018 is definitely going to be a game changer for healthcare with more and more solutions being developed, such as the deployment of blockchain for healthcare. Developers also feel the constant need to be compliant, interoperable, and on the path of continuous improvement.

Health clouds are beginning to hit the market more and more, with Progress Health Cloud as the number one HIPAA compliant cloud available. By combining microservices with a health cloud, it is easier than ever to deliver best-of-breed serverless digital transformation.


In order to accelerate healthcare modernization, microservices seem like the right way to go. Modernizing app development and speeding up the go to market time is an attractive proposition for any developer.

For example, a patient portal can be managed with multiple services and then scaled independently across different instances, all sharing one central database. It would drastically reduce the cost of building and maintaining a portal, as well as enable further scalability.

It’s clear that microservices will open innovative and proactive ways of facing the challenges of healthcare interoperability.

How to Start Using Microservices?

Healthcare expert Peter Nichol said it best, so I’ll just restate his main points here. First, identify potential microservices categories where you may find value. Define the breadth of responsibility for the identified microservices, and consider the type of information that will be transmitted. Associate your business processes with the technical functionality previously defined, then link the tech processes to the business processes. While you do this, research capabilities that are not offered today but you would like to have in the future.

Design the microservice starting with the API definition and elaborate on how the service will be consumed. When your design is complete, you will need to develop a mock-up service or simulation. Once your simulation runs the way it’s designed, deploy the microservice. Make sure to manage any container systems that you have included in your microservice.

Microservices give your applications scalability, adaptability and complexity that would not otherwise be available. The cost of transitioning is rapidly offset by the reduced cost of maintenance and further development, offering a compelling argument for why developers should switch. Making the transition from a monolithic architecture to one that runs on microservices takes work, but it is worth it in the end.

Gabrielle Davis

Gabrielle Davis

Gabrielle Davis is the engagement manager at Vicert, an SF based company that is enabling the digital health revolution by developing custom solutions that solve some of the biggest challenges facing healthcare. She services clients in the healthcare space from large payers, to providers and early-stage product companies to help them turn their business requirements into successful health tech solutions.


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