Primary health care
The first point of contact within the health care system for a person with a health concern is their family medicine centre. The family physician, in collaboration with the family nurse, diagnoses and treats most diseases.
In the case of infant patients, the physician monitors their development in cooperation with the family nurse. In the case of adolescent and adult patients, they are involved in disease prevention, and in later life, they pay increasing attention to possible chronic diseases. In addition, the family physician performs minor surgeries, refers patients for examinations and analyses, administers vaccines, dresses wounds, removes stitches, and makes home visits if necessary. They advise all of their patients as well as give advice regarding disease prevention.
The family nurse has independent appointments where they instruct, advise, and guide people regarding health care and disease prevention. The family nurse also provides care in the event of illness and organise medical records. In addition, they are responsible for monitoring people with chronic illness. If necessary, the family nurse consults the family physician or refers the person to an appointment with a family physician.
The family physician and the family nurse therefore care for the whole family and have known the people on their list for a long time.
A visit to the family physician is free of charge for insured patients. A family physician can charge up to €5 for a home visit, regardless of how many patients they examine in one visit. Home visits are free of charge for pregnant women and children under two years of age.
Choosing and changing your family physician
Each insured person has their own family physician. You can find out the name of your family physician in two ways:
- via the service ‘Account number and personal data in the Health Insurance Fund’ on the state portal eesti.ee . (You need to enter the eesti.ee portal to view your data)
- from the Health Insurance Fund’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 with a family physician and change family physicians on the basis of a written application.
- Fill in the application form to register with a family physician here
A separate application must be filled in and submitted for each family member.
Registration is based on a written application (in the case of a child, the application of a parent or guardian).
- Submit the completed application to the family physician of your choice.
You can submit your application electronically (digitally signed) or by regular mail.
- The family physician informs the applicant of the registration or refusal to register.
The family physician informs the applicant in writing within seven working days of the submission of the application. In the case of refusal, they will also indicate the reason.
The applicant is registered in the list from the first day of the following calendar month, but primary health care will be provided from the day of submitting the registration application.
A family physician has the right to refuse to admit a new person to their list if the maximum size established for the list is exceeded. Find family physicians with vacancies on their lists here.
Pursuant to subsection 3 (1) of the Language Act, the official language of Estonia is Estonian. The family physician is not obliged to provide services in a foreign language, as the physician’s understanding of the issue may not be the same as in Estonian due to differences in terminology. If the family physician speaks a foreign language, they may, at their own responsibility, use a language other than Estonian with the patient.
- If you are a foreigner who has moved to Estonia, we advise you to find an interpreter for appropriate primary health care if you have language issues. This is the responsibility of the patient when going to their appointment and the costs thereof must be borne by the recipient of the service, i.e. you. You can also use people in your support network (family member, relative, friend, etc.) as interpreters.
- If you are a recipient of international protection (including temporary protection) or a family member of the aforementioned, we recommend that you contact your local government or the Social Insurance Board for translation assistance, based on clause 73¹ (1) 3) of the Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens. In this context, translation costs are defined as costs in administrative situations that require translation (local governments, state institutions, educational institutions, doctors’ visits, etc.).
Information on family physicians:
- phone numbers and addresses can be viewed on the website of the Health Insurance Fund
- All family physicians in Estonia working with a list
- Family physicians with vacancies on their lists
- questions are answered by the customer service line +372 669 6630
- via email info [at] tervisekassa.ee (info[at]tervisekassa[dot]ee)
Family physician advisory line
If you have a health concern but your family physician is not available, you can call the family physician advisory line. On this line, family physicians and nurses provide advice 24 hours a day, in both Estonian and Russian. Advice in English is provided daily from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The number of the 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 administration arrangements.
Starting from January 2020, people are able to ask for personalised advice on the family physician advisory line. In order for the physician on the advisory line to be able to give more detailed health advice, the caller’s health data, such as illnesses suffered, medicines prescribed, and tests performed, can be viewed with the caller’s consent. The physician providing personalised advice transmits all of the information about the counselling to the digital health record so that the person’s family physician is also aware of the health concerns of the patient.
- More information about the services of the advisory line can be found at 1220.ee.
The family physician assesses the person’s health problem and either helps the person themselves, consults a medical specialist if necessary, or refers the patient to an appointment of a medical specialist. Often, a health problem can be solved without an appointment of a medical specialist, as family physicians have a quick and convenient way to consult a medical specialist electronically. This is called an e-consultation.
With the help of the e-consultation, the family physician can consult a medical specialist, either to continue the patient’s treatment themselves or to refer them to a medical specialist. The medical specialist will review the question written by the family physician, together with the attached examination material. The medical specialist has two options: they can advise the family physician to continue the treatment of the patient, or they can invite the patient to an appointment. The family physician always informs the patient when requesting an e-consultation with a medical specialist and asks for the patient’s contact telephone number, which is indicated in the referral.
Please note! It is always important to give your family physician the correct phone number. If, after the e-consultation, the need arises to invite the patient to an appointment, the medical specialist will contact the patient, usually within four (maximum six) working days of receiving the information from the family physician. If the number is incorrect or the patient does not answer the phone, they cannot be registered for an appointment of a medical specialist.
Referring a patient to see a medical specialist
If the family physician considers it necessary to refer the patient to a medical specialist, they will issue a digital referral, which is necessary to book an appointment with a medical specialist (except in specialties where a referral is not required: ophthalmology, psychiatry, gynaecology, and dermatology). Most hospitals ask patients to book an appointment with a medical specialist by means of a digital referral, which can be issued by all family physicians and other physicians.