Doctors, specialists to be given preventive access to patient data

A family doctor seeing a patient. Photo is illustrative.
A family doctor seeing a patient. Photo is illustrative. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

The Ministry of Social Affairs wants to give general practitioners and other health care specialists access to patient data in Estonia’s health care information system. The idea is to increase the quality of health care services.

Current law doesn’t specify a complete list of professions that may interact with patients somewhere in the chain of medical and health care services offered in Estonia.

The ministry’s plan is to now add such a list to the law, listing all professions that are part of medical and care services. The list would also include clinical psychologists, physical therapists, speech therapists, activity therapists, optometrists, and radiology technicians, all of whom would be granted access to the data of the health care information system.

Another step includes granting access to the Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) and the Health Board. According to the ministry, this is to increase the quality of services as well as to ensure better supervision.

General practitioners (usually referred to as family doctors in Estonia) would get the necessary access to run searches within the data sets of their patients, a particularly important step according to the ministry, as it is thought to increase doctors’ possibilities to do preventive work. For example, it would allow doctors to follow the developments in the health of chronically ill patients, and patients that belong into different high-risk groups.

Currently general practitioners can only do that if a patient turns to them for help. The planned regulation would allow doctors to look into patients’ data preventively.

According to ministry deputy secretary-general Maris Jesse, the change is necessary as the role of the general practitioners in Estonia’s health care system was becoming more important. Better access would mean enabling doctors to do better preventive work, and to increase the quality of the services they offer.

“Today a general practitioner can be in the strange situation where they can’t see who among their patients has been vaccinated, so risk groups could be called in for a visit,” Jesse explained one example. Similar prevention wasn’t currently possible in other areas either.

Ain Aaviksoo, responsible for the development of the ministry’s e-services, said the aim of the health care information system was to promote trust between the doctors and patients. “Of course delicate health data needs to be protected. At the same time, if in addition to the doctor another important specialist is participating in a particular case, then digital solutions can’t be an obstacle,” Aaviksoo said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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