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Nova Scotia launches HealthLink 811

HALIFAX – Nova Scotians can now dial 811 and be confident that health advice and information will be waiting on the other end of the line. HealthLink 811, the province’s new 24-hour, seven-days-a-week telecare service, was launched at the end of July.

“Part of ensuring a sustainable health system is to use information and communications technology to make healthcare services more accessible for each and every Nova Scotian,” said Health Minister Maureen MacDonald (pictured). “HealthLink will provide Nova Scotians with health advice when and where they need it.”

When a person dials 811 from any phone registered in Nova Scotia, they will be directed to an experienced registered nurse who will ask the individual to describe the symptoms they or their family member are experiencing.

The nurse will then assess the urgency of the caller’s symptoms or health condition and advise them on the next steps, such as appropriate self-care, or to seek services from a family physician or another healthcare provider, or to visit an emergency department.

The nurse may also provide health information or direct the caller to an automated library of recorded health information available online at All calls are confidential, there is no cost to the caller and a Nova Scotia health card is not required. This type of health line is widely used in other provinces and has had a positive impact.

“The Nova Scotia nurses we have hired have a great deal of clinical experience in many different healthcare environments,” said Lois Scott, vice-president, clinical solutions, McKesson Canada. “In addition, they just completed a four-week tele-nursing orientation program, which included learning to use the clinical decision support software, which helps the nurses to assess the urgency of the patient’s need for healthcare and the level and timing of the intervention required.”

The HealthLink 811 service will be available in multiple languages through French-speaking bilingual nurses, as well as an on-demand third-party translation service.

There is a combination of full- and part-time telecare nurses, telecare associates, and various clinical, quality and administrative support positions. The call centre, which houses support staff and several nurses, is in Dartmouth. The other nurses work from home.

Posted Aug. 13/09.