Patient rights

General patient rights are set out in the Law of Obligations Act. According to this, a health care service is provided under a contract signed between a health care provider and a patient. Health care services shall at the very least conform to the general level of medical science at the time the services are provided and the services shall be provided with the care which can normally be expected of providers of health care services. If necessary, a health care provider shall refer a patient to a medical specialist or involve a medical specialist in the treatment of the patient.

A patient shall inform a health care provider of all circumstances which, according to his or her best understanding, are necessary for the provision of health care services and shall provide any assistance which the health care providers requires. A patient may be examined and health care services may be provided to him or her only with his or her consent. A patient has the right to withdraw his or her consent within a reasonable period of time after granting it. At the request of a health care provider, such consent or an application to withdraw such consent shall be in a format which can be reproduced in writing.

Health care provider: patient rights
1) must inform the patient of the results of examination of the patient, the state of his or her health, any possible illnesses and the development thereof, the nature and purpose of the health care services provided, the risks and consequences associated with the provision of such health care services and of other available and necessary health care services. At the request of the patient, the provider of health care services shall submit the specified information in a format which can be reproduced in writing;
2) as a rule, shall not promise that a patient will recover or that an operation will be successful.
3) must maintain the confidentiality of information regarding the identity of patients and their state of health which has become known to them in the course of providing health care services or performing their official duties;
4) must duly document the provision of health care services to each patient pursuant to the requirements and preserve the corresponding documents. The patient has the right to examine these documents and to obtain copies thereof at his or her own expense.

The patient can examine the documents also through the Health Portal established by the Estonian eHealth Foundation. This work is based on a nationwide health information system, which shall collect the Estonia's health-related data. Health Portal can be used to access the patient's health records in the information system, to provide additional data and change one's personal information. When desired, a person can also close down their health records. Patient records can be viewed only by a physician who treats the patient. In addition to the above, the Health Portal can be used for a variety of health services-related expressions of will. For example, to determine person(s) authorized to purchase prescription drugs; to give permission to or refuse a blood transfusion; to express a wish to donate organs or tissues after death for transplantation purposes; to donate one's dead body to teaching and research work. The Health Portal also allows the patient to appoint themselves representative(s) with various rights.

The Health Portal can be accessed here.

According to the Health Services Organisation Act, every person in the territory of the Republic of Estonia has the right to receive emergency care, which the health care professionals are required to provide within the limits of their competence and with the means available. Emergency care is provided on outpatient basis (by the emergency medical care) and in specialized care by departments of emergency medicine (visit fee up to 5 EUR). Family physicians also provide emergency care to persons who live or are temporarily staying in their service area, but are not registered in the family physician practice list.

According to the Health Insurance Act, a patient also has the right to second opinion if he or she doubts about a doctor's decision. Secondary opinion concerns the assessment of the accuracy of the diagnosis, the need for prescribed medicine or health care service, an assessment of explained alternatives and the expected effects and risks associated with the provision of health care service. The correct procedure for receiving second opinion, its conditions and extent to which EHIF pays for second opinion is provided in the regulation by the Minister of Social Affairs.

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