Like other countries in Europe, Estonia provides its citizens with public health policies, paid almost completely by the state, in addition to private ones, if the patient chooses to do so.
With a population of about 1.3 million inhabitants and an average of annual tourists that exceeds the population mark - 1.6 million, the country must have a well-prepared infrastructure to provide quality services to both its citizens and the tourists.
The first relevant point when it comes to health in Estonia is that today the process is all computerized, so any medical assistance generates an electronic record, both public and private. What facilitates and streamlines the work of doctors, since all the patient's history is in one place.
Who is entitled to public health in Estonia?
Regardless of the amount of taxes paid by each citizen, all those covered have equal rights to quality healthcare, just being employed or having the ID card that would be your digital identity in the country. Being them:
- Persons under the age of 19 and students;
- Those who have children up to 3 years of age or pregnant women;
- Persons registered in the unemployment fund;
- Employees who earn up to the monthly minimum wage.
To be eligible for a family doctor, it is necessary to have a fixed address registered. If you do not fit into these categories, you will have to pay private insurance and your taxes, of which 13% are transferred to health insurance.
If you get sick you must notify your general practitioner, and if necessary he will start your medical leave. Where after the consultation, in the first three days, the state does not give any benefit, from the fourth to the eighth day the employer must pay for the assistance, and thereafter the state will cover 70% of the salary.
When it comes to a minor health problem, you can go to a pharmacy, contact your doctor, or, in Estonia, you have a 1220 hotline that can give you instructions. If it's something serious, there's a 112 line for emergencies or go straight to a hospital emergency.
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The Estonian system is divided into three fundamental parts: first care, specialist care, and nursing. The first care is the responsibility of your family doctor, as well as nurses who can help in this first stage and decide if it is necessary to refer the patient to the second stage of medical care.
For example, family doctors, along with other assistants can monitor the development of children, helping people living with chronic conditions, performing minor surgical procedures, administering vaccines, dressing, giving or removing stitches, making home visits, giving guidance on injuries and poisoning, give certificates for illnesses or specific work with the patient able to drive or perform a function.
As for the care given to specialists and nurses, it is first worth noting that some specialists do not need a referral, such as dentists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists, gynecologists, or psychiatrists.
Those with state health coverage can choose the specialist they wish to see and then the patient is put on a waiting list according to the severity of their situation. If the person is in a serious condition, both the general practitioner and the family can work to advance the patient's care.
Specialized care can be divided into outpatient care, daily care (where the patient only spends the day at the hospital), and stationary care (where the patient stays overnight and more than a day in hospital if necessary).
E-Health and electronic prescriptions
All healthcare professionals need to enter their patients' information into an electronic healthcare system. And for that, the government developed the eesti portal and the digilugu website.
In them, patients and citizens can consult their medical records and health information, medical documents compiled by different professionals, appoint representatives for different functions related to health, submit declarations of inheritance, verify who has access to your information, see which prescriptions have already been used, notify medical institutions of updates to your record, and add reminders of your upcoming medical appointments.
Estonian Health Insurance Fund (EHIF) processes all requests for medicines, their manufacture and, together with the social ministry, guarantees the distribution of medicines in the country and the discounts applied to them. The drugs are divided between those that need a prescription to be purchased, which would be antibiotics, tranquilizers, beta-blockers, etc; and those that do not need it, such as cough medicine, headache medicine, vitamins, etc.
EHIF usually reimburses a portion of the patient's prescription amount, with discounts ranging from 50, 75, 90, or 100%, where the greatest discount is usually restricted to medications for treating chronic or serious illnesses. Prescriptions are also mostly issued digitally, that is, they are electronic prescriptions.
Estonia has a unique national healthcare system, which guarantees a quality medical service for all its taxpayers. It should be remembered that despite national health insurance, most patients still have to contribute minimum fees. In addition, there are private health insurances if the patient chooses. Private health plans have the advantage of a shorter wait for care.
Other interesting details about health in Estonia refer to the health of children and newborns, these are monitored by the family doctor and nurses during the first year of life every month, in these visits the newborn is measured and weighed. Tips on nutrition, hygiene, accident prevention, and care are also given to parents.
From 6 to 7 years of age, the child must undergo pre-school medical care, where the doctor will assess the child's physical and mental health condition before he begins his studies. Among the characteristics evaluated at this stage are the child's hearing and vision, in addition to speech ability. If the doctor detects any abnormality, he can refer the child to specialist doctors for a more accurate diagnosis.
The EHIF pays for the dental health of children and adolescents up to the age of majority, that is, until the age of 19 years. Parents must take care of their baby's oral hygiene even before their teeth come out. The first visit to the dentist can happen when the baby's milk teeth start showing at or around one year of age.
The Estonian health system also has recommendations on vaccinations, scheduling for pregnancy and childbirth itself, and mental health.