Estonian pharmacies: Finnish e-prescriptions won't lead to medical tourism

Estonia has long since switched from paper to digital prescriptions.
Estonia has long since switched from paper to digital prescriptions. Source: Postimees/Scanpix

Representatives of Estonian pharmacies estimate that Finnish digital prescriptions becoming valid in Estonia later this year will not lead to medical tourism en masse, suggesting that it is more likely that it will be tourists who run out of their medications while in Estonia buying prescription products.

"When Finnish digital prescriptions become valid in Estonia, pharmaceutical drugs can only be bought here by the person to whom the drug is prescribed," Kaidi Kelt, chief executive of Benu Pharmacies in Estonia, told BNS, adding that the possibility can thus be ruled out that someone collects all of their acquaintances' prescriptions and takes regular trips to Estonia to buy pharmaceutical drugs in bulk or even provides such a service.

Kelt added that it is difficult to identify a motive for possible medical tourism. "The prices would be the most obvious reason, however, pharmaceutical drugs vary in their price and there is no reason to presume that everything is always cheaper in Estonia," she noted.

She believed, however, that cost-sensitive Finnish customers may determine it is cost-effective to take a trip across the gulf if the drug they need is indeed cheaper in Estonia and the quantity is great enough.

More likely, however, Estonian pharmacies will find that Finnish customers require their services when they have forgotten to bring their medication along with them or have run out of it [while in Estonia]. "Until now, they had to go to local walk-in clinics to request a prescription," Kelt recalled. "Now, however, they can call their doctor in Finland who will write them a digital prescription which can conveniently be filled in Estonia."

Catri Valner, manager of the Apotheka Pharmacy in Tallinn's Viru Centre, told BNS that the majority of EU prescriptions are filled at their facility. Currently, they see approximately 150 paper prescriptions from elsewhere in the EU per quarter, 90% of which are of Finnish origin.

Enabling cross-border digital prescriptions is a notable improvement to the European transnational exchange of patient data, however, and facilitates providing patients with the help they need in a foreign country.

"All European pharmacists are keeping an eye on us," Valner said. "The success of the project between Estonia and Finland would pave the way for implementing cross-border digital prescriptions in other EU states as well."

Finnish e-prescriptions will become valid in Estonia beginning in December; Estonian digital prescriptions will become valid in Finland beginning next year. Finland is also planning to launch similar cooperation with neighbouring Sweden.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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