The intersection of Big Data and healthcare: advancements and challenges in Hungary

Monday 29 April 2024

Matés Adrienne
bpv JÁDI NÉMETH, Budapest


The healthcare sector in Hungary is witnessing a transformative shift driven by the integration of Big Data analytics and digital solutions. From optimising pharmaceutical finance to improving patient pathways and value-based healthcare, the use of data-driven technologies is reshaping healthcare delivery. However, alongside these opportunities come challenges, particularly in ensuring interoperability, data quality, and compliance with regulations such as GDPR and regulations of the EU Health Data Space. This article discusses some key trends, legal frameworks, and innovations surrounding the use of Big Data in healthcare and interoperability in Hungary.

Digital solutions

The adoption of digital solutions in pharmaceutical finance management has become increasingly prevalent in Hungary. These solutions leverage Big Data analytics to streamline financial processes, optimise resource allocation, and enhance transparency.

In Hungary, although medical devices are regulated by the National Centre for Public Health and Pharmacy (NCPHP), this does not yet cover digital health solutions. Consequently, digital therapies remain unregulated and there is no distinction between safe and reliable digital health solutions which provide patients with verified benefits through clinical trials and the thousands of wellness apps on the market.

Linking data quality to funding

One of the critical challenges in healthcare data management is ensuring data quality, as it directly affects decision-making and patient outcomes. In Hungary, there is a growing emphasis on linking data quality to funding mechanisms as a way of incentivising healthcare organisations to maintain accurate and reliable data.

Patient pathways and value-based healthcare

The concept of patient pathways and value-based healthcare is gaining traction in Hungary, emphasising personalised care and outcomes-based reimbursement models. Big Data analytics play a crucial role in optimising patient pathways, identifying best practices, and improving the use of resources. The National Health Insurance Fund (NEAK in Hungarian) is exploring initiatives to incorporate value-based healthcare principles into reimbursement policies, aligning incentives with patient outcomes.

Data structuring, standardisation, and searchability

Effective data structuring, standardisation, and searchability are essential for enabling interoperability and facilitating data exchange across healthcare systems. Hungary has implemented standardised protocols and frameworks outlined in legislation such as the National eHealth Infrastructure Development Strategy (EESZT) starting as of 2017. These initiatives aim to enhance data interoperability, improve information exchange between healthcare providers, and ensure seamless access to patient data.

With the effective structuring of health data and appropriate standardisation of medical document types, their potential uses may also be broader. With respect to the current possibilities of use of health data, the system only handles static files, indicating limited potential use. Improving the domestic IT system in such a way that health data would be uploaded as readable data, or in different formats as well such as pictures, would contribute to data-use system better serving patient needs and interests.

Possibility of creating cohorts

The possibility of creating cohorts based on specific criteria is instrumental in research, epidemiology, and healthcare planning. Hungary’s legislative framework provides guidelines for accessing and utilising healthcare data for research purposes, ensuring patient privacy and data security. Initiatives such as the National Healthcare Data Warehouse (NHDW) facilitate cohort creation while adhering to legal and ethical standards.

Licensing and access to data

Licensing policies govern access to healthcare data in Hungary, specifying who can access data, under what conditions, and for what purposes. The NEAK and the competent ministry regulate data access and use through licensing agreements and protocols outlined in legislation such as the Act XLVII of 1997 on the processing and protection of health and related personal data (Healthcare Data Protection Act). Stringent measures are in place to protect patient confidentiality and ensure compliance with GDPR regulations.

With respect to the latest developments on healthcare data access, a bill is expected to be adopted in the near future by the Hungarian Parliament in the area of school absence certificates, which would amend the Healthcare Data Protection Act aiming to create interoperability between the Electronic Health Service Space (EESZT) and the public education study system (KRÉTA).This would allow general practitioners to send the e-certificate of absence containing the student’s personal and health information data directly to the school’s system on the student’s or parent’s request, making the process a little simpler, but remaining administrative burden for doctors.

A unified telephone appointment booking system – connected to the EESZT system – is also to be introduced in the latest bill proposal. Under this proposed system details of booked appointments can be made accessible to patients via the EESZT web platform and mobile app.

Anonymisation and GDPR compliance

Anonymisation techniques are employed to protect patient privacy and comply with GDPR regulations. Hungary’s data protection laws mandate the anonymisation of personal health information before sharing or processing for research purposes. Based on the Healthcare Data Protection Act, which provides for the anonymisation requirement, prior permission of the head of health institution or DPO is required before allowing access to healthcare data for scientific research purposes. This is provided that no health or personal data may be included in a scientific communication in such a way that the identity of the data subject can be established. Government guidelines and professional standards ensure that healthcare data holders adhere to GDPR principles and best practices in anonymisation.

Central expectations from government to data holders

The Hungarian government expects data holders to prioritise data security, privacy, and compliance with regulatory requirements. Legislation such as the Act XLVII of 1997 on the processing and protection of health and related personal data outlines the responsibilities of data holders in safeguarding patient data and ensuring its integrity. Collaboration between government agencies, healthcare providers, and technology vendors is essential to meet these expectations and drive forward healthcare innovation.

Interoperability between data systems

Interoperability between healthcare data systems remains a significant challenge in Hungary, hindering seamless data exchange and integration. Efforts are underway to standardise data formats, protocols, and interfaces to improve interoperability. The NEAK is spearheading initiatives to enhance data interoperability, foster collaboration between stakeholders, and address technical barriers.

With respect to the Hungarian healthcare system, there is still a significant gap between public and private healthcare with an ongoing tendency in favour of private healthcare due to its higher quality of patient treatment and more advanced ‘e-health’ services. Although public healthcare is based on funding by social security contributions and therefore means no additional cost by patients, the higher quality of service of private institutions nevertheless makes them more attractive.

However, in terms of data-flow, the introduction of the EESZT system has created something of a bridge between these sectors for the benefit of the patient. This is because the Healthcare Data Protection Act requires all health service providers in possession of an operating licence, to submit financial reports or to provide electronic data, in order to join the EESZT system. Therefore healthcare data created either in a public hospital or private clinic and the relevant medical history of respective patients is accessible by doctors via one platform.


The integration of Big Data analytics and digital solutions has immense potential to revolutionise healthcare delivery in Hungary. By addressing challenges such as interoperability, data quality, and compliance with regulations, stakeholders can harness the power of data to improve patient outcomes, optimise resource allocation, and drive innovation. With a collaborative approach and a commitment to data-driven decision-making, Hungary is poised to usher in a new era of healthcare excellence.