Viljandi Hospital has become the first in Estonia to begin offering home hospital care, part of which includes doctors advising patients via video chat. Currently, a home health nurse making house calls is helping six patients communicate with a specialist, but over the course of a month and a half long trial phase, 11 patients have already received care remotely.
77-year-old Mati Kuus was at his own kitchen table at home in the Viljandi Municipality village of Intsu when he spoke with internal medicine doctor Estri Kruus via video chat.
Asked what the difference is between speaking to a doctor via video chat and in person, Kuus, who was recently being treated at Viljandi Hospital, replied, "This is quite different from sitting somewhere outside of a doctor's office and waiting for hours and wasting doctors' and your own time."
Speaking with a doctor for the last time on Friday, he said he received a great deal of help from the doctor, and thanked her.
Kruus, meanwhile, was physically located in her own home in Tartu at the time.
"Good and hardworking nurses are my eyes and ears and hands — they provide me with an overview of what is going on, and we then resolve situations together," the doctor explained.
Kadri Oras, director of the Home Services Department at Viljandi Hospital, said that the hospital's home hospital service was established during the crisis due to obvious need, as all ill patients could not be hospitalized and the need arose to provide care for them in their own homes.
"Patients that under normal circumstances would be treated at the hospital but don't want to be at the hospital any longer and want to return home sooner, for example, or who cannot be directed to the hospital because there is a crisis situation," Oras explained. "The patient goes home, and a home hospital nurse provides care in accordance with a specialist's orders just as a nurse at the hospital would."
There are currently two home hospital nurses helping administer care for Viljandi Hospital patients. The hospital has a total of four nurses on staff with clinical experiences, however, which would allow it to further expand its home hospital services if necessary.
Editor: Aili Vahtla