Health care and health care providers

Health care services are the activities of health care professionals for the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of diseases, injuries or intoxication in order to reduce persons’ malaise, prevent the deterioration of their state of health or exacerbation of a diseases, and restore their health. Health care service can be either outpatient (a person does not need to stay at a hospital twenty-four hours a day), or inpatient (a person needs to stay at a hospital twenty-four hours a day).

Health care providers are health care professionals or legal persons providing health care services, who have been granted by the Health Board an activity license for provision of health care services. In terms of law, health care professionals are doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives, if they are registered with the Health Board. Health Board registries can be found here.

Provision of health care is organized according to the specifics of the service:

  •  emergency care
  •  ambulance
  •  primary care
  •  specialized medical care
  •  nursing care
  •  midwifery care

Emergency care is a health care service provided by a health care professional in a situation where deferrals or failure to provide assistance may result in death or permanent health damage to the patient. Every person in the territory of the Republic of Estonia is entitled to receive emergency care and all health care professionals are required to provide emergency care within the limits of their competence and with the means available. Provision of health care services is free of charge in emergency care department, permissible visit fee is up to 5 euros. 

Ambulance is a health care service for the initial diagnosis and treatment of a life-threatening illness, injury or poisoning and, if necessary, for transporting a person in need to a hospital. Ambulance is on duty around the clock and is intended for providing emergency medical care outside a health care provider's premises. Ambulance specializes in providing medical assistance with life-threatening health conditions, but in the field, ambulance crew provides all possible medical first aid and, if necessary, transport the person in need to the hospital. Any person on the Estonian territory is entitled to ambulance service. For calling an ambulance, a single emergency number 112 is in use in Estonia. EHIF pays for the ambulance service.

Primary medical care is a health care service provided by family physicians and health care professionals working together with them. In case of illness, a person's first point of contact is their family physician. The family physician provides general medical care and advice on disease, injury or poisoning prevention for all the people in their practice list. If necessary, the family physician refers the patient to a medical specialist for a consultation or to a hospital.

Every insured person has their own family physician, whom they have either chosen by themselves, or who has been assigned to them by local municipality. Persons not satisfied with their family physician, can change their family physician. For this you have to submit an application to a new family physician.

Primary medical care provided to an insured person is paid by EHIF that uses the funds provided for health insurance in the state budget. Persons not covered by health insurance shall pay for primary medical care themselves.

Specialized medical care is a health care service provided by medical specialists and health care professionals working together with them. Hospitals provide outpatient and inpatient specialized medical care services. Hospitals are divided into regional hospitals, central hospitals, general hospitals, local hospitals, specialized hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals and nursing hospitals. Specialized medical care provided to an insured person is paid by EHIF that uses the funds provided for health insurance in the state budget. Persons not covered by health insurance shall pay for specialized medical care themselves.

Nursing care is a health care service provided by nurses and midwives together with family physicians, medical specialists or dentists, or independently. Nursing care focuses on preserving and possibly improving the developed medical condition of a patient, as well as long-term treatment and support of patients in stable condition through nursing activities. 

Midwifery care is a health care service provided by midwives together with a family physician, medical specialist or independently. A midwife supervises, monitors, cares for, and advises women during pregnancy and childbirth, postpartum period, and in case of gynaecological problems. A midwife participates in health education and family planning at individual, family and society level.