1. In what language are health care services provided? Is it the patient’s responsibility to be able to handle the interactions in an unfamiliar language?

Each country applying the EU Patient Directive is only obliged to provide treatment in the official languages of the country. It is a good idea for patients to find out in advance, whether or not it is possible to get treatment in a language they can handle. Patients are normally expected to cover costs arising from interpretation themselves. Another language understood by the patient can also be used in patient care if this is possible and appropriate for the patient’s treatment.

In Finland, public health care services are provided in Finnish or Swedish. In addition to this, provisions on the right to use the Sámi language are set forth in the Sámi Language Act (1086/2003).

In Finland, health care professionals must always ensure that the patient understands all information concerning the treatment, which means that interpretation must be arranged if necessary. Where possible, public health care must also ensure that Nordic citizens receive the necessary interpretation and translation assistance.

Finnish patient documents are provided in Finnish or Swedish. It is recommended that, where possible, documentation on a patient’s treatment be provided in other languages as well, such as English. If the preparation of a document in a foreign language results in additional costs, the patient is usually responsible for covering them.

  1. Who will deliver the patient documents to the treatment provider, and who is responsible for having them translated?

The treatment provider is not responsible for having the patient documents translated. Patients should ensure that they bring the necessary patient documents in a language that the place of treatment can understand. The patient documents are always written in the language of the country where the treatment is provided.

If you seek treatment abroad, you must usually take care of having the documents translated and arranging interpretation, and cover all resulting costs.

If you suddenly fall ill in another EU or EEC country or Switzerland, the treatment provider will usually arrange interpretation, if necessary. In these cases, the interpretation costs are usually considered part of the treatment costs, but sometimes you may have to cover them yourself.

If emergency treatment, medically necessary treatment or treatment based on prior authorisation (form E 112 or S2) has been provided to a person covered by health insurance in another EU or EEC country or Switzerland but is temporarily staying in Finland, any possible interpretation costs are included in the treatment costs and will not be charged to the patient. In these cases, the treatment provider can apply for state compensation for the expenses. If in such a case there is a need to translate patient documents, the patient must make the arrangements and cover any resulting costs.

  1. How is information on treatment provided abroad retrieved for the Finnish patient registers?

Patients are responsible for the transfer to Finland of information on treatment abroad. They must always request copies of treatment-related patient documents from the treatment provider. Currently, there are no electronic systems for transferring information between countries.

The public health care unit must enter the information on a patient’s treatment abroad into the patient information, if the patient in question delivers the information to his/her own health centre, for example.

The treatment of mental illnesses is largely dependent on a common language. How is the Patient Directive applied to mental health services?

Mental health services are included in the Patient Directive’s field of application, but the Directive does not contain special provisions regarding them. Sufficient communication possibilities between the patient and medical personnel is important in all health care services. However, each country applying the patient directive is only obliged to provide the services in accordance with the obligations in its national legislation – in other words, in the official languages of the country. It is a good idea for patients to find out in advance, whether or not it is possible to get treatment in a language they can handle.

In Finland, a health care professional is obliged to arrange interpretation if it is apparent that a patient being treated in Finland cannot understand information concerning his/her own treatment or health.

  1. Will Kela approve a sick leave certificate written in another country?

Kela will approve doctor’s certificates written abroad if they specify the period of incapacity for work, in addition to the personal and contact information for the patient.

  1. Will foreign patients be recorded in the national Patient Data Repository (eArkisto)?

Yes, they will.

  1. Will patients coming from abroad be provided with a treatment summary in the same way as Finnish residents?

Yes. In Finland, treatment is always provided in accordance with Finnish legislation. This means that the treatment of foreign patients or patients coming for treatment from abroad is provided according to the same procedures as that of Finnish residents. Patient documents are provided in Finnish or Swedish.

It is recommended that, where possible, documentation on a patient’s treatment be provided in other languages as well, such as English. If the preparation of a document in a foreign language results in additional costs, the patient is usually responsible for covering them.

  1. If the hospital district requires additional information on a patient coming from abroad (previous patient documents, for example), whose responsibility is it to acquire them?

Patients must usually obtain the necessary patient documents themselves and deliver them to the treatment provider when seeking treatment in Finland.

If a person temporarily staying in Finland is provided with medically necessary treatment, it is normally easiest for the patient or authorised person to obtain the necessary documents from the patient’s country of residence. If this is not possible, Kela’s Centre for International Affairs can look into obtaining the documents from the country in question. However, this process always takes time and the documents may not be possible to acquire the documents.