“Long wait times to see specialists. Poor coordination between family doctors and hospitals. Duplicated tests. And some of the highest rates of heart disease-related death in Europe. They were some of the challenges facing Lithuania 20 years ago,” the report reads.
“Health officials concluded that many of the problems patients experienced in getting the care they needed stemmed from the way services were organized and provided,” the report continued. “Specialist cardiology centres were overstaffed while regional hospitals were understaffed, particularly in rural areas. As a result, patients typically sought out specialists, even for routine matters, cutting primary care providers out of their traditional roles as first contact providers and treatment coordinators.”
The report detailed the changes Lithuanian doctors made to their healthcare system and cardiology system in particular, which included creating a coordinating programme “to break down the hospital-centric delivery of care and the inequality of service between urban and rural areas.”
The new system, which is detailed in the report, boosted care provider availability by 45% “with the biggest increase at secondary-level health care facilities outside the capital city of Vilnius.” It also led to a drop in Heart attack and stroke mortality.
“The change has been dramatic,” said Prof. Aleksandras Laucevičius at Vilnius University‘s Santariškės Clinic. “Integrating services, from cardiovascular prevention to advanced treatment, as well as from the primary care level to specialized secondary and tertiary level , means people are getting the services they need in less time, with improved results.”
Now, the WHO is using Lithuania as an example for other countries.