Ageing population and the rise in citizens’ expectations increase the demand for health care services while the decrease in the workforce makes funding health care services continuously more difficult. This puts the system’s financial sustainability under pressure and makes it difficult to maintain the quality and accessibility of health care services. The implementation of information and communications technology has been seen as one possibility for making the health care system function better. One of the ways of using information and communications technology is telemedicine, which simplified, means providing health care services from a distance. Telemedicine has been seen as one possibility for improving health care system and supporting the achievement of its main goals – quality, accessibility and effectiveness.
Local and international experience in using telemedicine is mapped and primary obstacles for wider implementation identified. As a result, suggestions that cover the innovation process of telemedicine for wider implementation and the vision of telemedicine’s possible role in Estonian health care system in the near future are compiled.
This is an interdisciplinary study where qualitative analysis methods are primarily used. First, telemedicine terms, practices of evaluation, goals and international experience are described on the basis of a literary overview and document analysis. After that, Estonia’s current state of telemedicine is mapped in the course of interviews and documentation-based case analysis as well as participation of health care service providers in a questionnaire to evaluate their views on the need and preconditions of implementing telemedicine. Finally, primary obstacles are identified, and by synthesizing the aforementioned, recommendations to overcome those obstacles and reach reasonable implementation of telemedicine are developed.
National Audit Office of Estonia. 2014. Activities of the state in implementing the e-health system.