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Coordinating Institution
Sciensano
Contact person for health information portal
Brecht Devleesschauwer
Sciensano
Governance and legal framework
Legal framework and institutional responsibilities

In the past years, Belgium has made improvements in the field of health information, partially due to the efforts in eHealth, the regular assessment of the performance of the Belgian health system, the periodic health interview survey (HIS), the resuming of the death certificates registration at national level, and the creation of Healthdata.be, an IT platform designed to centralise data for health research. Yet, while a substantial amount of data is collected, important challenges remain. Some of the data that is collected is not used, while for other areas only limited data is available i.e. nursing, primary care, psychiatry, elderly and nursing homes, and non-reimbursed payments.

In Belgium, responsibilities for health policy are shared between the federal level and the federated entities (regions and communities). To facilitate cooperation between the federal level and governments of regions and communities, inter-ministerial conferences are regularly organised.

Health information strategy

Currently, there is no formal national health information system (HIS) strategy in Belgium, but all stakeholders and partners are covered with relevant legislation, they have clear roles and mandates for their work in the HIS. HIS includes data from many stakeholders at different levels, outputs are used for planning and developing health in Belgium and internationally. Some of stakeholders are engaged in direct health data collection, others are involved in results analysis or scientific research.

Health information sources and players
Main players (institutions)

The main stakeholders are:

  • Sciensano – the main tasks are providing the federal and federated governments with knowledge based on scientific evidence;
  • Statistics Belgium (Statbel) – the mission consists of collecting, producing and disseminating reliable and relevant statistics on the Belgian economy, society and territory.
  • The Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre (KCE) is an independent research center that provides scientific advice on topics related to health care. The topics are generally asked for by the public authorities (ministries, NIHDI). The overall objective is to support health policy decisions and contribute to an efficient allocation of scarce healthcare resources.
  • The strategic tasks are coordinated and supported by Federal Public service (FPS) - Social Security. Social security sectors related to health care are insurance for accidents at work, insurance for occupational diseases, compulsory insurance for medical care and benefits, and benefits for disabled persons.
  • The National Institute for health and disability insurance (NIHDI) receives information either directly from sickness funds or through intermediate organisations on different health care expenses. Sickness funds provide official information on health expenses for administrative purposes. A large database containing longitudinal information on the use of health care services is also available at the NIHDI.
  • The Insurance InterMutualistic Agency (IMA-AIM) manage the health insurance data (claims data) from the 7 sickness funds. IMA-AIM also provides information on hospitalisations, day care and use of pharmaceutical products in hospitals.
  • Federal public services (FPS) - Health, Food Chain Safety, and Environment is accountable to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Public Health and responsible on health care organisation, primary health care and crisis management, also responsible for animal and foodstuffs policies, inspection in the domains of food safety, alcohol, tobacco, cosmetics and pesticides; environmental health.
  • An important contributing institution is the Belgian eHealth-platform - a federal public institution, created by law on 21/8/2008, charged with promoting and developing electronic services and digital information exchange between all actors in health care. It organises information security, guarantees the privacy of patients and practitioners, and respects the medical secret. The eHealth-platform is working towards better quality and continuity of medical care, the protection of patient safety, and simplification of administrative procedures for all parties concerned. It also supports political decision making on health care topics, through data driven decision making.
Data protection
National data/privacy protection regulation and specific data access policies

To be updated.

Health information infrastructure and management
Health information infrastructure and management

Belgium does not have a centralised database. A Unique Patient Identifier (UPI) exists: the national register number, but due to (pseudoanonymisation it is not always possible to link databases. The lack of a UPI between databases, does not allow to track readmission of patients or follow-up in the health system after discharge. Additionally, coupling of data sources can take a lot of time, where linkage is done on an ad hoc basis rather than systematically.

Existence of a unique patient identifier or general personal identifier?
Yes
Name of identifier
National register number
Updated on 27 September 2022