Health Destination

Iceland’s advancing medical sector

Iceland has a universal healthcare. The healthcare system is largely paid for by taxes (85%) and to some extent by service fees (15%) and is administrated by the Ministry of Welfare. A considerable portion of government spending is assigned to health care. There is almost no private health insurance in Iceland and no private hospitals

Iceland is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic, with a population of 364,134 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq. mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík. Reykjavik and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to over two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterized by sand and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers, and many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. Its high latitude and marine influence keep summers chilly, with most of the archipelago having a polar climate.

According to the ancient manuscript Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 AD when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island.[11] In the following centuries, Norwegians, and to a lesser extent other Scandinavians, emigrated to Iceland, bringing with them thralls (i.e., slaves or serfs) of Gaelic origin.

Healthcare sector

Iceland has a large number of glaciers, and there are bays and fjords along the coastline. There is also an abundance of geysers on the Iceland. The geographical position of Iceland is such that the island nation is relatively warmer than other countries that lie in the same latitude. Although Iceland is located near the Arctic Circle, the winters here are not that harsh and severe. The presence of the North Atlantic current lowers the intensity of the cold winter winds. Overall, the climate of Iceland is predominantly temperate in nature.

Iceland has universal healthcare. The healthcare system is largely paid for by taxes (85%) and to some extent by service fees (15%) and is administrated by the Ministry of Welfare. A considerable portion of government spending is assigned to health care. There is almost no private health insurance in Iceland and no private hospitals.

Healthcare providers in Iceland fall into one of the following legally defined categories of healthcare providers: Healthcare Clinics, Health Institutions, University Hospitals and Teaching Hospitals.

The Icelandic health service is well organized, medical facilities are good and the doctor to patient ratio is much higher than in any other country at 3.7 doctors per 1,000 patients. All employers must pay taxes based on a percentage of wages to the State Treasury for every employee working for them.

Health card holders

Citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) and European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) holders, who certify to the Social Security Institute (SSI) of Iceland that they have made contributions in their home country, are entitled to free or reduced cost medical treatment from the national healthcare in Iceland.

All registered foreign nationals, who have been residents in the country for six months are automatically entitled to healthcare coverage from the public healthcare system.

State health insurance in Iceland entitles citizens to hospital treatment and care, emergency medical care, prescription medicine, physiotherapy, ambulance transportation, surgical aids and other medical equipment, dental treatment and maternity care. The private health sector is not very common in Iceland. There are a limited number of private healthcare providers in the country, mainly operating within healthcare centers in more populated areas of Iceland. Specialist private healthcare operators are also available at a fee-for service for those who are not entitled or do not seek medical treatment from pubic healthcare.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) of Iceland is responsible for healthcare administration and it formulates policy on health related issues. By law, the MOH is required to carry out certain functions to ensure the stability of healthcare in Iceland. A few categories under MOH of Iceland include public health, patient rights, operation of hospitals, health centers and other health service centers (both public and private) and promotion of information technology in the health services of Iceland.

Iceland is divided into seven healthcare regions and each region has its own treatment facilities. Some of these centers have close connections with the local community hospitals; jointly they are responsible for general treatment and care, examination, home care, preventative medicine and child healthcare.

Opticians, gynecologists, ear nose and throat specialists and pediatricians visit all healthcare centers on a regular basis. Each citizen is required to register with a GP in a region close by to where he lives. In each area, there is a doctor on-call 24 hours a day. Doctors are salaried workers normally paid by the Government. Inpatient treatment is free of charge, and payments are required for treatment at the health centers and hospital outpatient wards.

Hospitals in Iceland are located in all the major towns of the country and normally one will find the most highly qualified medical professionals practicing there. There are three types of hospitals in Iceland, namely specialized teaching hospitals, general hospitals and community hospitals. The specialized hospitals perform most operations and procedures in all specialist medical fields. One must receive a referral from a doctor in order to visit any hospital in Iceland unless it is in the case of an emergency.

Medical tourism is booming in Iceland and the Government is building two private hospitals in Reykjanesbaer and Mosfellsbaer to address the need. A private dental clinic will also open soon. Both hospitals will offer specialized surgery and treatment, joint replacement and many other services. The dental clinic will offer a new method of teeth implantation.

The healthcare system in Iceland is very well established; perhaps a minor imperfection is that there is limited access to healthcare services in the less urbanized areas of the country. If you are planning to stay in Iceland for less than six months, you are required to pay for any out-of pocket medical costs and these are typically expensive. It is therefore highly recommended to purchase a travel policy while making a trip to Iceland. As is the case with any universal healthcare system, there are always long queuing times that can be a hassle during your trip. Should you desire to receive immediate treatment at a doctor or clinic of your choice, an expat medical insurance plan will be the optimal solution for you.

This will give you a peace-of-mind knowing that medical costs will be covered quickly and efficiently in case of an accident or illness for yourself and your family while traveling to the country.

Medical technology sector

Being a small country, Iceland has no medical technology of its own. The country relies mostly on other Scandinavian countries, US, and England. About one third of Icelandic physicians are abroad. Because of Iceland’s, excellent population records, which goes back 150 years, medical research often relies on those and clinical population studies than on elaborate laboratories with expensive technologies.

The Icelandic healthcare technology sector – focuses specifically on information technologies and medical devices and has seen a paralleled boom in recent years to fit this innovation demand. The organization of the Icelandic sector follows a similar categorization as observed in other global healthcare technology sectors such as Clinical Admin & Patient Safety, Medical devices, TeleHealth, HER/EMR, Population Health Management, Online Health Communities, Patient Engagement, Genomics, Big Data & Analytics and so on.

Iceland has a solid infrastructure within bio- and health technology. The Icelandic population is well educated, open-minded and willing to embrace new technologies. Strong educational and research institutions and companies with qualified workforce and international connections have now opened up new fields offering more diverse and extensive educational possibilities in health-, biomedical and biotechnology, ICT, engineering and business. Most Icelandic scientists today have gained their graduate qualifications abroad. Among the main strengths of the Icelandic scientific community is the extensive net of international connections, arising from, and maintained by researchers who have completed advanced research degrees in other countries.

As Iceland has a small home market, innovation efforts need to have a global perspective from the get go. Therefore, Icelandic bio- and health products and solutions are tailored to a global market from the initial phases of development. Active cooperation has led to remarkable progress and many Icelandic companies in bio- and health technology are already servicing the global market.