What Affect do Microservices have on Digital Health?

Blog / What Affect do Microservices have on Digital Health?

table of contents icon

Table of Contents

    Sheraz Sarwar
    Sheraz SarwarNovember 26, 2021

    I ensure that our clients & developers are happy as we build exciting products.

    Microservices architectures have been adopted by some of the largest global companies, like Amazon and Netflix. In fact the term has almost risen to the level of a buzzword! 

    Developers will tell you that Microservices offer isolated control and segmentation. But what does this mean in plain English and why are microservices becoming such a trend in healthcare?  

    Parts of the healthcare sector have trailed behind in digitalization and implementation of new tech. 

    Microservices’s flexibility and security make them ideally suited to digital health, and perhaps that is why they are becoming a buzzword. 

    This article will look at microservices in healthcare attempting to talk about their advantages in layman's terms so business readers can understand what’s really behind this trend.


    One of the failures of current digital health systems is the need for interoperability. Records are stored in different systems using varying code, making it difficult to collect a patient’s full history. Healthcare records are incomplete as a result, and can impede treatment. 

    Microservices adopt open standards like HTML. This allows integration from third parties, and other microservices. This means that new components can be introduced in the future with relative ease. Data processed by these architectures can also be utilized by other health systems, increasing access to important data.

    Sections of the development can also be repurposed for future use. This results in easier application building going forward and quicker access to relevant information for integration into further projects.

    Microservices allow a software to easily and securely be connected to a number of different data sources. The alternative to this approach is to build a massive data warehouse or build a complex data orchestrator like an ETL to collect the relevant data when needed. The problem with this approach is that large complex systems are expensive to build, challenging to maintain and there are security challenges. The security element is especially concerning with health data when regulations like GDPR or HIPAA might apply! 


    Continuous Improvement

    Microservices are segmented by nature. Each sector of the microservices architecture is developed singularly. This means that improvements can be made easily. 

    As an example, an electronic healthcare record system has grown unreasonably large or a new regulation requires changes. These changes must be made platform-wide, rather than on the small element that needs updating. Without microservices, developers need to redevelop ALL of an application instead of one small part of it.  

    Microservice updates are developed without the need to integrate them into a monolithic connection of softwares. A singular department or team can update their microservice, without other segments’ involvement. This means that changes and maintenance take place quickly. The teams working on each microservice are experts in that microservice. 

    This is a little bit like an assembly line where workers are experts in specific small aspects of building a greater product. The advantage with the assembly line approach is that quality goes up and reliability increases. Just look at cars made on assembly lines versus those that are handmade. 

    This serves the healthcare industry security needs well and underscores why microservices in healthcare are such a trend. Updates can be rolled out quickly and securely without re-developing the whole application.

    Go To Market Time

    Speed of application development in healthcare solutions is crucial. There is increased pressure to develop solutions, and add value. Microservices are serving an important role to speed up go-to-market time.

    The initial building of a microservices architecture can be a lengthy process, as with any application development. However, once built, each segment can be utilized later. Ultimately, this means that new digital healthcare solutions can be released faster. To put it another way, each microservice is a bit like a lego brick which can be reused in future or removed easily.  

    Microservices architectures eliminate the process of building an application from scratch. New applications will be launched to the market faster, beating out competitors.

    Also, reused components have been fully tested. This results in more time available to develop new components, easing pressure on developers. This is important in building an effective solution, with fewer initial teething issues.


    Regardless of where development is taking place, any healthcare solution must meet regulatory requirements. In the US, you must meet HIPAA laws when handling private data. This includes health data. 

    HIPAA requires safe storage and transfer of individual health data and records. Depending on the use of a solution, this could be a priority. 

    Microservices facilitate data regulations like HIPAA and GDPR. As each segment is developed individually, databases can be isolated. Personal data can be kept separate from all other system data. Updates or changes to components in the architecture can be secluded from the microservice that handles user information.

    As a result, access to data can be easily audited. Microservices help avoid delving deeper into a large structure to assess the safety of private information. Regulatory checks are swift and easily demonstrable, which is key to public safety.



    Similarly, health system security is vital. Many digital applications and databases have fallen foul of viruses and cybersecurity issues in previous years. Large systems are difficult to monitor and secure, as information is integrated throughout the system.

    For example, when user data is targeted, all relevant departments of the app must be closed off and re-secured. Cybersecurity issues could spread through an entire system. Private data is accessed too easily. This could mean serious downtime.

    Databases are just one component of a microservices architecture. They can be isolated from other non-critical information within the system. If this breaks down, the entire system doesn’t.

    Methods such as authentication mechanisms can be utilised to form a barrier between the sensitive information, and other system data. When working with healthcare data, it is important to operate a strict gateway for information. Microservices keep this simple. 

    The example that we like to use here is that of a modern cargo ship. Inside the hull of a cargo ship are watertight compartments. If the ship hits a rock and punctures its hull, one of the compartments might fill but because they are independent of each other, the water won’t sink the ship. 

    Microservices function in a similar way. One service might go down, but that doesn’t take them all down! 


    In a traditional development architecture, many experts are involved in the creation and maintenance of a solution. This can be difficult to control, and cause communication issues. When there is a problem, it can be difficult to find the person responsible.

    Developers also need to be flexible, and work on multiple projects for one solution.

    Microservices are like building blocks. Each element is handled by a team of specialists in that specific field. This means that each component is great quality, with experts only working on their designated component. This improves the overall development. 

    Communication within the development is also improved. It is easier to identify and discuss changes with the relevant person. Also, any issues can be isolated down to the related developer or team. This is key to building a good quality and effective digital healthcare solution. 

    Tech Success

    Digital health development will likely follow the path of commercial tech development, and the likes of Netflix and Amazon. Microservices can facilitate the updates needed within the sector, to meet demand. 

    Segmentation offered by microservices can simplify the overwhelming systems that are currently in place. Ultimately, this serves the patient and healthcare professionals better. Healthcare data and information for patients should be easily accessible to improve treatment plans.

    At Vertrical, we specialise in digital health. We can support your health tech development to ensure you’re meeting compliance. Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help your digital health company.  


    You may also like

    Marko Jakic

    Is Nearshore or Offshore Outsourcing Best for Digital Health Development?

    The challenges presented by recruiting developers in today's market has persuaded more project managers t...

    Marko JakicNovember 24, 2021


    facebook share
    facebook share
    facebook share
    facebook share
    facebook share