Driving Healthcare Innovation with Microservices

Executive summary

The healthcare industry has undergone massive disruption on multiple fronts. Legislative pressures place a renewed emphasis on reducing healthcare costs, while improving care outcomes. Providers, payers, and life sciences companies face increasing competition from both new entrants, and global juggernauts looking to expand their presence in healthcare. Furthermore, the rapid adoption of EHRs, as well as the proliferation of wearables and mobile health applications, has created an explosion of health data—creating new opportunities for healthcare companies and their competitors. The winners will be those who can quickly drive innovation at scale. As a result, this industry transformation has put a renewed focus on business agility.

In response to disruption, healthcare enterprises have leaned more than ever on IT to help them transform their operating models, improve patient engagement, and support new models of care. As competition in the healthcare ecosystem increases, driving innovation along these focus areas has become a prerequisite for continued growth. Doing so, however, is easier said than done.

At its core, driving innovation that supports business needs requires a new way of thinking about IT, one centered around increasing project delivery speed. Consequently, organizations have started adopting microservice architectures to respond more rapidly to the never-ending demands of the business.

Why microservices?

Microservices are the evolution of best-practice architectural principles that shape the delivery of solutions to the business in the form of services. Businesses across all industries, healthcare included, must strive to deliver the ideal “customer” experience for patients, providers, partners, and other key stakeholders. IT must deliver solutions that can be adapted to deliver a holistic and uniform experience across all channels.

To achieve this, their architecture should identify and define digital assets, which align to core business capabilities. They offer the potential to break down the coupling between business channels and the backend clinical and non-clinical systems that cater to them. A microservice that encapsulates a core business capability and adheres to the design principles and goals outlined below should be considered a true digital asset. It can bring value to the business because it can be adapted for use in multiple contexts. The contexts for use of the service are the business processes and transactions, and the channels through which your patients, employees, or partners interact with your business

Benefits to the healthcare enterprise

A microservice architecture aligns with the business in such a way that changes to your business can be dealt with in an agile fashion. Business processes and transactions are automated 6 with the composition of microservices. When processes are changed or when new ones are introduced, IT can respond by re-wiring services into new compositions.

The ease and speed with which your company can change will determine your ability to react to trends in your industry and maintain its viability. With solution logic in the form of composable services, IT can run at the pace of the business and match business changes with an agile response in the delivery of solution logic. Innovation is the face of this agility. It may take the form of new channels of business (like Google creating new revenue streams by productizing their APIs), new digital engagements with patients, entirely new products and services, or the simple modification of existing business processes. All of this speaks of change. Companies need to be able to alter direction based on market forces. IT must be able to facilitate change by composing existing digital assets into new business capabilities.

Your enterprise can deliver solution logic in a decentralized manner with the standardization of microservice contracts in the form of APIs. Multiple teams from different domains can implement services with their own choice of technology, yet remain aligned with the business in their purpose. This represents the evolution of IT’s role from provider to partner, resulting in the enablement of teams from the lines of business to adapt the core capabilities built by the central team to their own particular needs.

Microservices are natively able to communicate with each other because of industry-wide adoption of standards like HTTP 7 and JSON. In other words, they are intrinsically interoperable. They facilitate an exchange of information independent of how they have been implemented because their interface is defined according to standards which already exist at the level of the industry and which are also defined by the teams in your organization.

Your business can pick and choose best-of-breed vendor products and platforms because of the interoperability that standardized interfaces bring. For the same reason, your teams can also choose the best technologies to implement the microservices with a polyglot approach to development.

What are microservices?

Traditionally, enterprises have delivered software applications in siloes. These arose from the isolated demands of individual departments. Software was developed or purchased in attention to these limited scopes. End-user facing business processes on the other hand typically span multiple departments. The lack of alignment between these two realities led to duplicate efforts and missing or inaccurate information in each solution. The latter was a major force behind enterprise integration.

The service concept evolved from attempts to respect the business process as focal point of solution requirements. The need to modify existing processes or invent entirely new ones should be met with an agile response from IT to adapt to the change. Rather than build or purchase “applications” in the traditional sense, a service approach stipulates the creation of composable services as the building block of solution logic to address the automation requirements of business processes.

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Driving Healthcare Innovation with Microservices

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