TALLINN - Starting Jan. 1, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund has planned several changes to primary healthcare services to improve the availability and quality of family doctor services.
One of the main changes is the call center service for family doctors, which makes it easier for patients to communicate with their family doctor.
From the new year, family doctors will be provided with a call center service, which will allow call waiting list management, call recording and callback service, waiting list notifications for patients and reporting and monitoring services in the centers. "The challenge for primary healthcare is to improve access to care for people and to make it easier for patients to see a family doctor," Kulli Friedemann, head of the department for first contact services at the Estonian Health Insurance Fund, said.
A new service, "Web consultation of the national family doctor helpline in one calendar month", will be added to the helpline 1220, which will ensure the accessibility of the service for the hearing impaired and persons with speech difficulties who have difficulty communicating by regular telephone call. In the course of the online consultation, it is possible to communicate with one's family doctor in real time, using the chat window, which can be found at www.1220.ee
From 2022, a quality system for school nurses will be added to the first contact level, the aim of which is to motivate school nurses to contribute even more to maintaining children's health and preventing diseases. "Preventive school healthcare is very important, because many habits become entrenched in childhood and adolescence. This way, attention is paid to them also as adults," Friedemann said. The quality system will be implemented for the first time in the academic year 2022/2023.
From the new year, the possibility of e-consultation will expand to two specialties: pediatric ophthalmology and plastic and reconstructive surgery. "E-consultation specialties are being added every year and we are glad that two new specialties are being added from the new year, which saves patients time because they no longer always have to see a specialist -- the specialist is consulted electronically and all treatment is coordinated by the family doctor," Friedemann added.
An amendment to the Health Insurance Act will also come into force, the aim of which is to improve the availability of dental care for the disadvantaged adult population. The unemployed and recipients of subsistence benefits can use 85 euros a year instead of the previous 40 euros.
The right to free dental care will be extended from the new year to those oncology patients who have been diagnosed with a malignancy of the head and neck and whose need for dental care has increased due to the underlying disease.
Hematological patients who need a hematopoietic stem cell transplant or antiresorptive treatment as part of their treatment will also receive free dental care from the beginning of the year. There will also be a change regarding orthodontic treatment. In the case of cleft lip and palate, other congenital malformations of the maxillofacial system and rare diseases, the Health insurance Fund will pay for orthodontic treatment even after the person reaches the age of 19, provided that the need for treatment and the plan have been established earlier.
The additional cost of upgrading first contact services in 2022 is 5.71 million euros. A total of 10.36 million euros will be directed to new medical services in 2022. The changes in primary healthcare will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.