Terje Peetso is an established healthcare professional at the North Estonia Medical Center and she answers some questions in this article about the adoption of telehealth in her country. Here is what she has to say:

  • What approach has Estonia adopted toward telehealth?

During the COVID-19 situation, telehealth is becoming increasingly popular despite its long history of widespread use. E-consultations between specialists and general practitioners are one example of a service used mostly by healthcare professionals, whereas e-booking is an example of a service utilized by patients. Video consultations between physicians and patients can also be facilitated by others.

  • How have the Estonian healthcare system’s foundations been built with the use of digital technology?

The eHealth vision for Estonia is laid forth in the Strategic Planning Process 2020 for Estonian eHealth until the year 2025. E-health solutions with high interoperability will form the backbone of a healthcare network by 2025. I am pleased to note that e-Health is not viewed as a distinct mission with its own goals. It is instead seen as an enabler in the National health plan. 

Since the start of 2020, the Health Insurance Agency has indeed been promoting the development of telehealth services in order to promote access to treatment and encourage patients to take greater responsibility for their health and thereby boosting continuity and quality of treatment.

  • What were the aspects that needed to be worked upon to achieve Estonia’s goal?`

There are a number of things that need to be done before we can begin this process: define the requirements, test the remedies, review, and update, and so on.

A number of equally critical issues need to be addressed, including digital literacy, the availability of high-speed Internet, and the availability of up-to-date equipment. Make sure that Estonia and the rest of the Baltic states are interoperable. Last but not least, give back to the community by sharing your knowledge and letting others benefit from it.

  • How does Estonia’s healthcare approach differ from other Baltic states? Do you have better access due to digitalization?

Due to long waits for outpatient specialists, day surgery, and inpatient treatment, there are many unmet healthcare requirements. A smart place to start is by boosting digital health awareness and providing easy access to (high-quality) data and analytics.

  • What are the steps needed to be followed to build up a telehealth approach to the aspect of health?

As soon as you’ve determined your problem, hunt for a tried-and-true solution—or invent one from scratch—and make sure it’s easily available, user-friendly, and routinely changed and updated so you can realize the rewards of your efforts and stay on top of your health.

  • In order to make telehealth the standard and the norm, what are the conditions which have to be met?

Show off the results and how easy they are to use. Make it both financially and technologically sustainable. There should be no end to pilot initiatives; they should be the beginning of a process.

Patients need to be involved throughout the process, from proposing a solution through evaluating patient-reported experiences and outcomes.

While this may sound simple, it isn’t always. You still have to ask yourself, “What is the most important thing?” Whether or whether a patient’s needs are met is a contentious issue. In this case, for example, there are many unfulfilled demands. Do our patients require outpatient specialist care, or are they simply complaining about the lack of it? It’s not uncommon for patients to turn to their primary care physician for help.

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