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Transforming Patient Care Through Healthcare Interoperability Using Microservice

Feb 07, 2024 - Reading time 3-5 minutes

In recent decades, travel has become more accessible and cost-effective. However, a medical emergency during travel often means being admitted to a hospital without access to personal medical history. This lack of interoperability across healthcare systems leads to delays, repeated tests, unknown medications, and compromised patient safety. Despite promises of a future where all medical data is at the fingertips of doctors, the reality is that patients still carry their information, hindering efficiency and increasing the risk of oversight. This lack of interoperability compromises patient safety contributes to clinician burnout and wastes billions of dollars a year. Forsee Medical quotes that the lack of healthcare data interoperability costs the U.S. health system over USD 30 billion annually.


The question that all healthcare organisations need to ask then is, “Are my systems interoperable?”. This article outlines some of the challenges with interoperability, what can be done and what is needed to move to the next level.

Why have we not yet achieved Interoperability in Healthcare?

For healthcare systems to be truly interoperable, there is currently a huge gap. This is due to challenges such as lack of a single data standard, prevalence of legacy systems in healthcare, resistance to change, and finances among others.


When asked which factors will determine the success of new care delivery models, healthcare leaders and younger healthcare professionals were united in calling out interoperability across systems and platforms (28 per cent across both groups combined), availability of appropriate technology and technology infrastructure (28 per cent), and timely and smart data sharing (27 per cent). This is as per the Philips Future Health Index 2023.


How do we overcome these barriers to interoperability?

There is an ever-evolving urgency for interoperability in the healthcare domain, as it has a positive effect on all stakeholders in the healthcare systems, but in the center of it all the patient is the most benefitted by it. Interoperability in healthcare is vital for timely and accurate patient care. As medical data grows exponentially, efficient and secure data sharing becomes crucial. Without interoperability, fragmented data can lead to misdiagnosis, delayed treatment, and increased costs. Especially in emergencies, instant access to comprehensive patient history can be lifesaving. Interoperable systems empower patients to actively manage their health and ease coordination among providers, ensuring consistent, high-quality care across the health continuum.

Healthcare Microservices:

Microservices, an established software architecture paradigm, involves breaking down complex applications into smaller, self-contained services. Each microservice handles a specific function or capability, allowing independent development, deployment, and scaling. This approach offers agility and modularity, surpassing the constraints of traditional monolithic architectures.


In healthcare, Microservices architecture functions like building blocks, akin to Lego, for creating applications. Each block represents a required service, facilitating easy adaptation and addition of new features. For instance, integrating AI diagnostic tools, patient monitoring devices, or online doctor visits becomes seamless and modular within the system.


The healthcare microservices architecture allows systems to optimise and scale individual components. Feature additions, improvements, and fixes can be made to individual services like streamlining billing processes without disrupting the entire system. This is possible because at the core of microservices lies the principle of decomposition. Unlike monolithic applications where all functionality is tightly coupled, microservices decompose complex healthcare systems into smaller, independent services.

Using microservices architecture would offer many benefits to the healthcare system.

1. Interoperability: To start with, microservices provide the ability to seamlessly integrate different systems achieving the goal of interoperability.

2. Data privacy and security: Microservice architecture allows us to implement security checks at each service level. Services can be made HIPAA compliant and ensure patient privacy.

3. Scalability: As described earlier, microservices are like building blocks that can be used to scale services as and when required.

4. Accelerate build and run: As services are in their own container, they can be developed in parallel, and updates can be made faster without affecting other services.

5. Built-in Resilience: As each service operates independently, failure in one service will not mean that the entire system will come down.

6. Use of emerging technologies: We can integrate emerging technologies like Blockchain, IoT, and AI.


The downsides to consider while using microservices are:

  • Reduced code reuse
  • More complex operational setups
  • Amplified network communication
  • Increased security needs for inter-service communication.


Healthcare Stakeholder Benefits:

There are many stakeholders in the healthcare system and implementing seamless interoperability will help them all deliver better care for you. Breaking down complex healthcare systems into smaller, self-contained services like microservices will allow for agility, scalability, and resilience. This transition allows healthcare systems to quickly adjust to evolving needs, improve patient care, and boost operational effectiveness.


1. Patients: Interoperability keeps patients at the center of their core services, this allows patients to receive the right timely care in the fastest time possible, thus improving patient experience.

2. Doctors: Doctors will be able to diagnose patients faster and provide scare that takes all their parameters into consideration. This will pave way for better outcomes and hence fewer burnouts.

3. Medical staff: Automation of day-to-day tasks will mean lessor errors and better care for patients and improving staff experience.

4. Insurers/Payors: Insurers can reduce adverse event costs.


The future of interoperability:

Efficiency, quality of care, cost control, and patient access to clinical information necessitate increased collaboration among systems and caregivers. To address the use of multiple systems from different vendors, a strategic, standards-based interoperability approach is crucial for seamless health information exchange.


In the current landscape, interoperability is not a choice but a necessity. As we move toward a connected care era, a one-size-fits-all solution for interoperability is impractical. Introducing additional technologies is essential to facilitate seamless communication between systems, improving service quality and operational efficiency.


Transitioning to healthcare microservices poses challenges, but the benefits are substantial. In the face of evolving technologies, changing regulations, and dynamic patient needs, microservices provide a flexible and efficient framework to navigate these transformations.


Please click on the link to access the article: BW HealthcareWorld

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