The role of Kela and other organisations in dispensing of medication

The medication dispensing process is designed to be safe and appropriate for individual patients, prescribers, pharmacies and health care providers. Kela plays a complementary role in paying out reimbursements as specified under the Health Insurance Act.

Licence to prescribe

Among health care professionals, doctors, dentists and nurses with limited prescribing rights are authorised to prescribe medication. Medical and dental students, too, may prescribe medicine, but only to the patients they are treating.

Medication may only be prescribed if the prescriber has determined, either through a personal examination or in some other reliable manner, that the patient needs medication. Issuing a prescription or refill requires the prescriber to have personally examined the patient within the last 12 months. The prescriber must note any prescriptions or refills issued in the patient's medical record.

The dispensing of medication is governed by a Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Decree (1088/2010).

Doctors and dentists can look up statistical data on their prescriptions at an online portal (in Finnish) maintained by Kela.

Prescriptions are usually issued electronically. Paper or phone prescriptions are only allowed in exceptional cases. Electronic prescriptions are stored in the Prescription Centre, a nationwide database maintained by Kela. All electronic prescriptions and pharmacy dispensing details are stored in it. Any pharmacy may dispense an electronic prescription.

Customers can look up their electronic prescriptions and pharmacy dispensing information on the My Kanta service.

National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira)

Professional practice rights for health care professionals are granted by the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira). Valvira maintains a nationwide central register of health care professionals. Members of the public may check the qualifications of specific health care professionals via the JulkiTerhikki website. The Regional State Administrative Agencies and Valvira supervise the professional activity of health care professionals with prescribing rights.

Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea)

Medicines may be sold to the public only by pharmacies, either through a physical sales outlet or online. The Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea) is the licensing and supervisory authority for pharmacies. Among its responsibilities are the licensing of pharmacies and chief pharmacists and the supervision of pharmacy operations. Fimea also provides guidance to pharmacies in dispensing matters.

When dispensing a medication, pharmacists must ensure that the prescription and other relevant documents are authentic.

Kela

Based on an agreement between Kela and pharmacies, the reimbursements for medicine expenses available to customers are provided to them directly at the pharmacy, which makes it as straightforward as possible for customers to obtain the medication they need. At the time of purchase, pharmacies contact an electronic service maintained by Kela to check the customer's right to reimbursement. Pharmacies need the customer's consent to check their direct reimbursement details. This process also helps to ensure that other requirements for reimbursement are fulfilled. Information about the purchase of a medicine and the reimbursement is transmitted directly from the pharmacy to Kela.

By logging into Kela's online customer service (in Finnish and Swedish), customers can check their copayment total for reimbursed medicines.

The information on medicine purchases transmitted from pharmacies is checked daily by Kela. The purpose of this check is to confirm that customers get the reimbursements to which they are entitled under the Health Insurance Act, and that pharmacies comply with the direct reimbursement agreement. This ensures that all customers and pharmacies throughout Finland are treated the same way. Based on the check, the pharmacy, the client, or both can be sent a request for further information.

Kela compensates pharmacies as required by the Health Insurance Act once a month according to information supplied by the pharmacies. Payment of the compensation requires that the pharmacy complies with the direct reimbursement agreement, the instructions relating to the agreement, and other government regulations concerning the dispensing of medication.