E-consultation health service to be retained after pandemic and expanded

The Council of the Health Insurance Fund (EHIF) on Friday discussed changes to healthcare and the ability to use solutions introduced during the coronavirus crisis in the future. It was agreed the remote consultation service should be retained and expanded.

The state provided remote consultations between patients and doctors from the beginning of the emergency in March until July 17 - two months after the end of the emergency situation in May. 

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said the changes to the list of health care services will take effect on September 1, but some will take effect retroactively. 

"As a new change in the list of health services, we will permanently apply the options that existed during and after the emergency," Kiik said.

Retaining remote consultations was supported by both hospitals and healthcare professionals, Kiik said. He said in some cases the service will be expanded and this will help to shorten treatment waiting lists.

He emphasized the new option is not intended to replace physical consultations but will help in situations where it is suitable for both the patient and the doctor.

In several areas, it was agreed that e-consultation could be used so a family doctor could consult a specialist if necessary and decide whether the patient needed a referral letter. 

"This is a positive measure which is being used more and more by family doctors, precisely in order to offer the best advice to the patient on the one hand and to refer them to the best possible doctor on the other hand," Kiik said.

He added: "This is a very sensible solution for both parties, and when we talk about e-health and the digitalisation of healthcare, it is one area which must definitely be developed."

Kiik hopes to keep EHIF excess funding for second wave

Kiik said the additional money allocated to the Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) and not used could be kept for a possible second wave and as reserves.

Yesterday, ERR reported the Health Insurance Fund had only used half of the additional €40 million funding allocated by the government at the beginning of the crisis.  

On Friday, the EHIF's supervisory board received a thorough overview of the use of the additional money allocated during the coronavirus crisis. 

"On the one hand, it is positive, it shows the outbreak was smaller than the initial forecasts feared. The initial assessment was somewhat more skeptical, we were able to control the spread of the virus more quickly," Kiik said.

It is planned to use the extra money - providing the government approves - to cover the needs of the health sector as there will be a shortfall in the coming years due to the economic downturn caused by the emergency situation and the virus. 


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Editor: Helen Wright

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