Innovative Ideas States Can Learn from Estonia
Estonia is a small Baltic country, nestled between the great powers of Europe. The ex-soviet state regained its independence in 1991, after being conquered numerous times. Estonia is now leading the world in tech and innovation.
How did this small European country of 1.3 million achieve this? The answer is Estonia’s embrace of innovation and a free market system. Healthcare and transparency in government are two areas Estonia leads in and the states could learn from.
Estonia’s policies are surprisingly progressive toward innovative technologies. According to the 2019 Index of Economic Freedom, Estonia’s low taxes, openness to foreign investment, open trade policies, and ease of doing business have helped Estonia lead the way in economic freedom and encourage an entrepreneurial spirit. This has led to Estonia boasting six times the number of startups compared to the European average; with successful examples such as Skype.
The country’s biggest stride has been its e-government initiative. E-governance has converted public services to digital services. For example, citizens can vote, do taxes, or obtain permits online. According to E-Estonia, “Estonia saves over 1,407 years of working time annually and has become a hassle-free environment for business and entrepreneurship.” Ninety-nine percent of public sources are available to Estonian citizens 24/7. This gives citizens easy access to government services, and ensures government transparency.
An important part of E-governance for Estonia is its digital identity system. The digital ID functions like other ID cards, but it is embedded with a chip granting access to online services; making daily tasks like banking and signing documents easier and more efficient. For example, doing taxes, which is a dreaded and tiresome task in America, only takes three minutes for Estonians due to their streamlined digitalized services. There are only three tasks Estonians cannot do online; get married, get divorced and buy real-estates. Digitalization of routine and daily tasks has made Estonian society a shining example of efficiency and freedom.
Estonia has also led in its digitalization of the healthcare system. Through the creation of an electronic website known as “e-patient portal,” patients and doctors have easy access to electronic medical records. This portal enables doctors to read test results as they are entered, including image files such as X-rays even from remote hospitals.
The e-patient portal gives patients control of their own health data and allows doctors to make better treatment decisions. Ninety-nine percent of health data has been digitalized, giving health providers and citizens more ways to maintain their health. For example, online drug-prescribing removes the need to go into a doctor’s office.
Now, citizens can simply call their doctor and go to the pharmacy to get their prescription, resulting in ninety-nine percent of prescriptions being handed out digitally. This saves doctors time by allowing patients to perform rote tasks and doctors to focus on the real value they provide-compassion and understanding.
Estonia has also revolutionized their ambulance system. Healthcare providers are given pre-filled forms of medical information for patients; giving them the necessary data to save more patients lives’ in emergency situations. This E-ambulance system tracks the location of the caller within 30 seconds, enabling healthcare providers to get to the person in need quickly.
Its small population of only 1.3 million suggests this type of change could be implemented in the states. Unfortunately, many Americans don’t use digital government services. This is partially due to a failure in our education system which has not made citizens aware of these programs. Estonia educates every student on digital services and IT and teaches them how to use these programs. States could follow this example and start to prioritize educating Americans from a young age about digitalization.
Estonia’s embrace of innovation has led to great technological advances which have proven to better the lives of its citizens. Revolutionizing their governance and healthcare system through digitalization has vastly improved the quality of life for the average person. American states could follow Estonia’s lead, by beginning to digitalize their government and healthcare systems to increase government transparency and provide better medical care to its citizens.