Primary health care
First contact in a healthcare system for a person with a health concern is his/her family physician or family nurse. The family physician, in cooperation with the family nurse, diagnoses and treats most diseases.
In infancy, the physician monitors the child's development in cooperation with the family nurse. In adolescence and adulthood, the physician deals with the prevention of diseases and in the future pays more and more attention to possible chronic diseases. In addition, the family physician performs minor surgeries, directs the patient for examinations and tests, vaccinates, binds wounds, removes sutures and, if necessary, makes home visits. The physician advises all their patients and also gives recommendations on disease prevention.
The family nurse has independent appointments where she teaches, advises and guides their patient on health care and disease prevention. The family nurse also provides help in case of diseases and organizes medical records. Besides, the nurse is responsible for monitoring patients with chronic illness. If necessary, the family nurse consults the family physician or directs the patient to visit the family physician.
The family physician and family nurse therefore take care of the whole family and generally know the members of their list for a long time.
A visit to a family physician is free of charge for the insured patients. A family physician can charge up to five euros for a home visit, regardless of how many patients he/she examines during one visit. Home visits are free of charge for pregnant women and children under the age of two.
Choosing and changing a family physician
Each insured person has their own family physician. You can find the name of your family physician:
- at state portal eesti.ee under the service "Health insurance and family physician information"
- from the EHIF’s customer service line 669 6630
Every Estonian citizen, every person residing in Estonia on the basis of a residence permit or right of residence, and every foreigner who is temporarily insured in Estonia can register in the list of a family physician and change their family physician on the basis of a written application.
- Fill in the application for registration in the list of a family physician – here
A new application must be filled in and submitted for each family member.
Registration in the list is based on a written application (or, in the case of a child, on the basis of an application by a parent or caretaker).
- Please submit the filled-in application to the selected family physician.
You can submit the application electronically (digitally signed) or by regular mail.
- The family physician shall notify the applicant of the registration or refusal to register.
The family physician shall notify the applicant in writing within seven working days as of the submission of the application. In case of refusal, the family physician shall state the reason, as well.
The list shall be entered from the first day of the following calendar month, but family medical care shall be provided from the day of submission of the application for registration in the list.
A family physician has the right to refuse to add a new person to his/her list if the maximum limit established for this list has been exceeded. In Estonia, the maximum size of a family physician's list is 2,000 patients (or 2,400 if an assistant doctor also works for a family physician).
Information about family physicians:
- their telephone number and address can be viewed on the website of the Health Insurance Fund (EHIF)
- the size of the list, appointment times, and the service area can be viewed on the website of the Health Board
- questions can also answered by customer service offices and via the customer service telephone +372 669 6630
- by e-mail: info [at] haigekassa.ee
Family physician advisory line
If a person has a health concern but his/her family physician is not currently available, he/she can call the family physician advisory line. On this line, family physicians and nurses provide advice 24/7 in Estonian and Russian. Counseling in English is available daily from 3pm to 5pm.
The telephone number of family physician advisory line is +372 634 6630. The advisory line provides advice on minor health problems, instructions for first aid, and, if necessary, information on health management issues.
From January 2020, patients can request personalized counselling when calling on the family physician advisory line. In order for the doctor of the advisory line to be able to give more detailed health advice, he/she can see the caller's health data, such as past illnesses, medicines prescribed, and tests performed, with this person's permission. Within personalized counselling, the consulting physician enters the counselling information into digital health records, so that the family physician can be updated with the health condition that caused his/her patient's concern.
- More information about the advisory line services can be found here.
The family physician assesses the patient's health problem and either helps him/her, consults a medical specialist if necessary, or refers the patient to the medical specialist. Often, a health problem can be solved even without attending a medical specialist’s appointment, because family physicians have a quick and convenient way to consult medical specialists electronically. This is called an e-consultation.
With the help of the e-consultation, the family physician can consult a medical specialist, whether to continue the patient's treatment by himself or to refer the patient to the medical specialist. The medical specialist will review the issue written by the family physician together with the attached examination material. The medical specialist has two options: he/she will either advise the family physician to continue treatment or invite the patient to the specialist’s appointment. The family physician always informs the patient when the physician asks the medical specialist for an e-consultation and, in this regard, request the patient's contact telephone number, which will be indicated in the referral.
Please note! It is always important to give your family physician the correct phone number. If, after the e-consultation, there is a need to invite the patient to the appointment, the medical specialist will usually contact the patient within four (maximum six) working days after receiving the information from the family physician. If the number is incorrect or the patient does not answer the phone, it will not be possible to book an appointment with a medical specialist for the patient.
Referral to a medical specialist
If the family physician thinks that the patient needs to be referred to a medical specialist, the physician will issue a digital referral, which is required for booking an appointment (except in specialties where a referral is not required: eye diseases, psychiatry, gynecology, and skin and venereal diseases). Most hospitals ask the patient for a digital referral to book an appointment with a medical specialist, which can be issued by all family physicians and other doctors.