Healthcare in Estonia for Digital Nomads

5 min read
On Left: Oxygen Therapy, On Right: An unexpect visit to the emergency room

Healthcare in Estonia for Digital Nomads

2020 is anything but a normal year, and if you had told me in January that I would be spending several months in Estonia, I would have told you that there were places that I wanted to explore far more than Estonia. The value to me from Estonia had much more to do with it’s digital aspirations than the country itself.

I was, and am, a very happy e-resident and I run an Estonian company powered by the ecosystem they are building.

Fast-forward to mid-2020 and I’m looking for somewhere to bide my time while the world works on solving the pandemic. I don’t particularly want to go back to Australia, but at the same time I want to be responsible and not risk anyone else’s health. I discover that Estonia is offering a Digital Nomad visa and decide to apply for that. I’m informed I’m not eligible for it — it’s mainly aimed at remote employees rather than business owners, regardless I’m given a long stay D-visa.

I arrive in Tallinn in late September and go through the required 14 day quarantine, coming from Sweden. Everything is pretty normal, I rent a private office from Workland, one of the many coworking providers, figuring that’s a better idea than hot desking. Everything is sailing along pretty smoothly.

One of the things that Estonia is known for is its Sauna culture. Before leaving I decide that it would be wrong not to go and visit one of the many spas. It’s a great evening, I get a professional massage and then try the various Saunas and pools.

Toward the end of the night I go into the steam sauna, and this is where the night takes a decidedly less pleasant turn. I incorrectly judge the steps back to the door and take a tumble, landing heavily on my right side. My first reaction is embarrassment, I pick myself up and finish exiting the Sauna.

I realise that I am bleeding from my forearm, and my head is ringing (though I still looking back don’t think I actually hit it). The friend that I’m with, sits me on the edge of one of the pools and I subsequently faint(?). The next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery position with a bunch of Estonian spa guests standing over me and the Spa Manager is on the phone with emergency services.

I am able to sit up a few minutes later and have a drink of water. The ambulance crew arrives and start to take care of me, bandaging me up and taking me to the ambulance to do tests. My blood pressure is low — whether or not my tumble was caused by not thinking clearly, or the blood pressure being low as result of the tumble I’m not sure I’ll ever know.

The Paramedic is just fantastic. She inserts a canula and starts me on some Sodium Chloride solution. They decide to take me to the hospital just as a precaution and test me using an EKG while I’m in the ambulance.

During all this I mention several times that I have private health insurance (through SafetyWing). Some part of my brain wants to reassure them that I’m not some freeloading tourist, they don’t seem particularly interested.

We arrive at the hospital and I’m handed off to the triage team. They sit me on the edge of one of the beds and do a bunch more tests, trying to determine if I’ve injured any bones or have an internal bleeding, checking for any neurological symptoms. Retesting my blood pressure again.

The registrar comes by and after a discussion indicates that I will need to pay and they can give me an invoice for my insurance, since I don’t fall under their EU medical arrangements.

I’m then released into the waiting room to wait my turn for a doctor. There are 5-6 other patients in the waiting room all spaced out and masked up. I wait probably 20-30 minutes to see a doctor at which point I have a discussion and indicate that I’m feeling much better. We agree that I probably don’t need to stay any longer.

I stop by the registrars desk to pay, wondering what the bill will be (not worried so much as fascinated at this point). The bill is 125€. What about the ambulance I ask? The ambulance is free in Estonia. Now, I’m not an American, I’m used to universal health care in Australia, but even there the Ambulance is not free.

The care was top notch. The hospital wasn’t much to look at, and the waiting room wasn’t what I would call comfortable, but I felt at all times that I was in competent hands, and that’s a reassuring thing. I’m very much for not being a burden on other people medical systems as a digital nomad.

Pro-active Care

I also spent some time on more proactive medical and dental care while I was in Estonia, this was actually earlier in my stay before my tumble.

Minor Surgery at Confido

I decided to deal with a Cyst on the back of my head. I found a service provider called Confido and asked them check check the Cyst and subsequently remove it.

This cost:

  • Dermatologist 100€
  • Surgeon 100€
  • Nurse (to remove the stitches): 25€

It was all very smooth. They have a big medical complex in a business area on the edge of Tallinn and offer a very broad set of services. I also used them right before leaving to get a Covid test and certificate for a total of 95€.

Another great thing about Confido, and this applies to lots of Estonian businesses, is that they have a great website in both English, Russian and of course Estonian. Their customer service email was also very responsive, answering questions and solving problems.

Dental at Maxilla

I also spent some time at the dentist. Maxilla was one of many dentists and while busy spent some time doing a checkup and x-ray. Fixed 2 cavities and then proceeded to repair degrading fillings. All up over three visits it was 518 EUR.

Oxygen Therapy at oxytherapy.ee

I also visited oxytherapy.ee. Spending time in a Hyperbaric chamber has a number of benefits. Both from a healing perspective (it was coincidentally, just after my injury above), but also in a broader health sense. Importantly it is being researched for benefits relating to anti-aging. It’s not without it’s detractors and risks. It’s not harmful to give it a try however, if it doesn’t work I’ve just wasted a bit of money.

The first visit cost 30€ for a 40 minute stay in the chamber. The instructions are fairly straight-forward.

The FIRST visit includes an introduction and a 40-minute stay in the baroque chamber. How to prepare for the procedure: • Smoking is not recommended for 2 hours before and after the session. • Wear ?comfortable clothes during the procedure. • Teeth must be repaired, nasal needle and paranasal sinuses free of inflammation. • It is not recommended to eat a large meal immediately before the start of the session to avoid intestinal gas and abdominal pain. • It is not recommended to drink carbonated drinks before the procedure. • Do not drink alcohol before the procedure. • Empty the bladder before the procedure.

In some ways it feels similar to going up in a plane. You’re ears pop as you adjust and you relax laying in the chamber. You do feel a bit “lighter” after it’s all finished. Whether that’s phychosomatic or not is hard to say. It’s definitely something I want to do again in future.

Femtolasik at Laservisoon

Aside from my own experiences, a friend decided to have Femtolasik in Estonia. After doing a bunch of research they used a company called Laservisoon has all the latest technology. The first consultation cost 45€ to determine my eligibility, following that they had a 14 day wait for the actual appointment. Getting the procedure for both eyes cost 1850€. It was incredibly simple, the recovery was smooth and vision is hugely improved after the procedure.

Final Thoughts

Medical care is one of those subjects that doesn’t get talked about as much as a digital nomad. You can and should have health cover with companies like SafetyWing, but it’s also nice to know that there are places that you can go for affordable proactive care.

Estonia cares a lot about being a country that offers services to both it’s citizens but also it’s e-residents. The more I discover about Estonia the more I’m starting to understand what that means and what the future is for government services.