A dentist assisted by a dental nurse treats a patient at a clinic in Tallinn.A third of Finns are prepared to use health services in Estonia either in connection with other travel or as the sole purpose of the trip, reveals a new survey commissioned by Estonian health service provider Medicine Estonia.

Finnish medical tourists to Estonia were most likely to have dental work done or use services related to diagnostics and laboratory tests, surgery and eye conditions, health checks and orthopaedics. Rehabilitation and aesthetic operations were also among services Finns would consider using. Estonia is usually chosen as a destination for medical treatment because it is considered good value for money. Up to 66 per cent of all respondents agreed with this view, while the figure jumped to 87 per cent among participants who had already travelled to Estonia for treatment. The respondents gave short waiting times as the second most important factor in favour of Estonia.

Around 20 per cent of the participants had prior experience of using health services abroad and around six per cent of Finns have used health services in Estonia.

While most Finns resort to medical treatment abroad only if they become ill during a trip, 15 per cent of respondents had travelled abroad planning to use health services, revealed the survey.

"Estonia is so close, particularly for people living in the southern Finland, that it's easy to pop over for a medical check-up. When people need to have their eyes checked or want to have a health check they book a time for a place in Estonia and use also other services while over here," explains Tiina Mikk, a development manager at Mikk Medicine Estonia medical centre.

In particular, the respondents who had already tried out services provided by Estonian medical centres were prepared to go back for further appointments. More than 80 per cent were also happy to recommend the services to others.

"Finns may have some prejudices about Estonian health services or be uncertain about local doctors' language skills, but these disappear when people try out the services," says Mikk.

New directive

The EU directive that came into effect in 2014 gives consumers the right to use health services in other EU countries and claim compensation from their national health institution.

According to the survey, Finns are generally not aware of the new directive, with only 39 per cent of the respondents saying they had heard of it. Only 12 per cent of the respondents who had used health services abroad had claimed compensation from Kela.

The online survey was conducted by Success Clinic for Medicine Estonia in September 2014. Altogether, 1,120 volunteers from all over Finland participated in the survey.

Pauliina Grönholm – HS
Niina Woolley – HT
Image: Marko Mumm

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