In Hungary, four out of five people use e-prescriptions, and two-thirds of patients have requested an appointment or referral online at least once. In 2021, one third of the population used smart devices, health-related sensors and apps during the coronavirus epidemic, compared to 50 percent today, according to a recent survey by Semmelweis University’s Digital Health Research Group. Artificial intelligence (AI)-based health solutions are also becoming more familiar.

Among the adult population using the internet, the proportion of people using the web for health and illness-related issues has increased to 91 percent following the outbreak of the coronavirus. Websites, social media platforms and video sharing sites remain the main source for gathering information online. Around 70 percent of patients visit these platforms before and after consulting their doctor.

Researchers also wanted to know how the public feels about AI-based healthcare solutions, as a new element for their 2021 survey. Nearly 30 percent of respondents were positive, nearly as many negative and 40 percent neutral on this question. Almost 45 percent of the participants have heard of the utilization of AI in various health screenings, diagnosis and interpretation of medical findings.

“Awareness of digital technologies – such as e-prescriptions, online appointment bookings, referral requests or the National eHealth Infrastructure (EESZT) interface – is around 90 percent. And 70-80 percent of respondents have already used them. In the last three years, sensors, smart devices and apps have also been used more widely, with the latter two used by about half of the respondents, and the demand for them is huge,” says Dr. Zsuzsa Győrffy, Associate Professor at Semmelweis University’s Institute of Behavioural Sciences, one of the leaders of the research. She added that the new national survey shows that the over-60s are increasingly open to digital solutions, many of them using smartphones and the internet as well. However, for this age group, the face-to-face doctor-patient encounter is still the most important, with digital solutions being secondary and complementary. At the same time, the usage of remote monitoring and remote diagnostics is only 14 percent, but patients would try them in higher numbers if they had the opportunity,” she noted.

“Demand for digital solutions is high, with a significant proportion of people wanting their doctor to recommend trustworthy websites and apps, and 80 percent wanting to be able to communicate by email and share pictures. More than half of the patients would even prefer to use social media to communicate with their doctor,” says Dr. Edmond Girasek, Associate Professor at the Institute of Behavioural Sciences at Semmelweis University, co-principal investigator of the study.

The researchers’ questionnaire also addressed the advantages and disadvantages of digital solutions. Among the advantages, respondents continued to emphasize convenience, efficiency and time saving, while among the disadvantages and risks, they pointed to the impersonal nature of care and the possibility that the information they share about their health status can be often misinterpreted.

The 2024 study was preceded by a survey including doctors during waves 3 and 4 of the coronavirus epidemic, between July 2021 and May 2022, in which researchers sought to measure the knowledge and understanding of digital health among Hungarian specialists and residents. Overall, a total of 1,774 respondents (1,576 doctors and 198 dentists) took part in the online survey. Parallel to this, the research team also conducted a representative telephone survey of 1,500 people in Hungary, entitled “E-Patients in Hungary”, between 5 and October 13, 2021.

Eszter Csatári-Földváry
Translation: Viktória Kiss
Cover image (illustration): iStock, photo by Bálint Barta – Semmelweis University