Health insurance fund: Specialist care remote appointments to continue

Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) office. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Estonian Health Insurance Fund will continue to fund remote appointments in specialist care even under normal circumstances, as both patients and health care professionals consider the service necessary.

Overnight, the emergency situation brought along remote appointments to Estonian health care, which make it possible to solve health concerns without leaving home.

Remote appointments in specialist care take place at a distance between the patient and the health care professional and is carried out by telephone, video call or web chat. The goal of remote appointments is to improve the availability, continuity and results of treatment for a person and to save their time and money.

Kitty Kubo, head of innovation at the Health Insurance Fund, said: "Feedback from people in the emergency situation clearly showed that remote appointments save time and allow people to get the help they need without leaving home or office. Thanks to the possibility of remote appointments, medical institutions can organize their work more flexibly and take better account of the needs of a specific patient."

Kubo said remote appointments must be equal in content to contact appointments, meaning they can only be used if the quality of the service is not affected. The health care professional must also take into account the patient's capabilities and technical skills when choosing the most appropriate appointment method.

The Health Insurance Fund pays for remote appointments in specialist care, which take place on recall, meaning it must be a recurring appointment and not an initial appointment. Remote appointments can only be used if the patient agrees, meaning the person always has the opportunity to receive help as before.

"In cases where the patient requires a physical examination, remote appointment is not an appropriate way. The suitability of remote appointment in each individual case is decided by the health care professional," Kubo added.

Remote appointments are well suited for monitoring a patient with a chronic illness, for example. At a remote appointment, the patient can be directed to tests and analyzes that can be performed at a health care facility closest to home. In addition, remote appointment allows patients who live far away to be monitored by specialists and it also facilitates medical access for people with reduced mobility.

Administrative activities, such as agreeing on, changing or canceling a doctor's appointment, or when a health care professional, without specifying treatment instructions, informs a patient of a test result or writes a repeat prescription, are not considered remote appointment.

In order to get an overview of how medical institutions carry out remote appointments in practice, the Health Insurance Fund is collecting feedback on patients' experiences.

The Health Insurance Fund expects people to provide feedback on their remote appointment experience so that they can continue to improve the service. The questionnaire can be answered on the Health Insurance Fund's website.

According to Marko Tahnas, head of the partnership relations department, a solution is also being developed where every person whose invoice is received by the Health Insurance Fund for remote appointment will receive an invitation to answer the online questionnaire to their e-mail address. "This way, everyone can provide input for the continuous improvement of the service," Tahnas added.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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