VILNIUS - Lithuania's health system has been put online to give patients better access to health care and doctors better access to medical records.
Medical professionals have hailed the launch of Lithuania's National Electronic Health System (NESS) as a breakthrough for patient care, especially in regional centers where specialists are rare.
Haroldas Baubinas, undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, said this is an important step and an effective tool for enhancing the quality and accessibility of health care services.
The project is a collaboration between the Ministry of Health, the government and the European Union.
"We are sure that this Web site will help all interested parties to understand how IT and its solutions in health care, for example NESS and other elements of the project eHealth services, will function, and how they will ensure accessibility and quality of healthcare services for patients all over Lithuania," said Evaldas Dobravolskas, executive manager of the eHealth services project.
The current antiquated system is seeing doctors repeating tests and scans because of poor communication between doctors and hospitals. Dalius Ramancionis, president of the Lithuanian Medical Association, said putting records online would help the medical system in a number of ways.
"All private members of the medical professions agree that they should communicate with each other. This will mean that the same tests will not need to be repeated by different doctors 's they will be able to see the results in the system," Ramancionis said.
Because of poor communication, more general practitioners are required to direct patients to the correct specialists, who are overloaded with patients. "We could decrease the amount of general practitioners in Lithuania. This is good because we will be able to pay good money for specialists," Ramancionis said.
Ramancionis explained to The Baltic Times that breast cancer is a common area in which a shortage in specialists appears. He thinks that specialists could do quick consultations with the help of other doctors using the system.
"If I have a patient and I need to, I can send him to another hospital and my colleagues will help him. This doctor in this hospital could see all the results and scans for tests," he said. "We could send these tests to specialists and they could say if it is a diagnosis or not," he added.
Internet medicine is relatively new for doctors and patients alike, and Lithuania lags behind Europe on the electronic medicine front. A survey of 263 Lithuanian general practitioners showed that 57 percent had a computer in their workplace, 51 percent use the Internet and only 29 percent use a computer for consultations.
The European average shows 87 percent of general practitioners using computers, 70 percent using the Internet and 66 percent using a computer for consultations.
Lithuania is the first of the Baltic states to launch the project, which is part of a national program for 2007 through 2015. The Lithuanian government and the EU are jointly funding the program, providing 1.9 million and 2.5 million euros respectively.
The Web site www.esp.sam.lt is intended to provide an overview of the development of electronic health services in Lithuania and answer frequently asked questions about what services will mean for citizens and professionals. Clinicians, managers and administrators will also be able to discuss various health issues and topics.
Health officials expect the Web site promote citizens' awareness and involvement in protecting their health.