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Canada's 811 Phone Health Care System

  • Synopsis: Published: 2014-05-26 - Information regarding dialing 811 in Canada for free health and community services advice from a registered nurse - Disabled World (Disabled World).

Main Document

Quote: "The 811 health information sources are available at any time of the day or night, every single day of the year."

Canadians who use the 811 phone system have health information available to them any time they choose to reach out for it. Three numbers dialed on a telephone will find Canadians with access to non-emergency health services and information. If a person is hearing-impaired and would like to access these services, they may call 711 for TTY services.

When a person calls 811, a registered nurse provides them with information and advice they need as well as reassurance about every kind of general health issue or question that may be on their mind. Information and advice might include a recommendation to visit their doctor, or to visit their local emergency room. A person may also obtain information concerning health issues and services that are available in the person's own community.

If a person or their family member does not speak English, Canada's 811 system has the ability to provide services in French and a number of other languages. Services in other languages are offered through a 3rd party interpretation service and include - yet are not limited to, Farsi, Arabic, and Cantonese.

Reliable health information is available to Canadians online, through telephone and TTY. The information helps people to understand health issues that matter to them, their family members, as well as to their communities. The 811 website highlights and provides information on, 'hot topics,' which include health issues affecting Canadians. The hot topics might include seasonal health issues such as sun protection or allergies, or information about an outbreak affecting communities.

The 811 health information sources are available at any time of the day or night, every single day of the year. The 811 services provided to Canadians include access to a variety of health care professionals. These professionals include the following:

Nurses : At any time of the day or night, every single day of the year, Canadians can call 811 and ask a registered nurse questions concerning their health. The nurses at 811 are available to assist Canadians with non-emergency health concerns, to discuss symptoms and procedures, and to recommend whether a person should visit their health care provider in person.

Pharmacists : Canadians can call 811 and speak with a pharmacist about questions they have concerning medications. The pharmacists at 811 are on-call when a person's community pharmacist might be unavailable; each night from 5:00pm-9:00am.

Dietitians : Registered dietitians are available through Canada's 811 system to answer healthy eating and nutrition questions by phone. People may also Email a dietitian. The dietitians are available from 8:00am-8:00pm, Monday through Thursday, and from 8:00am-5:00pm on Fridays.

When a person calls Canada's 811 system they will interact will a health services representative who will direct them to the services that fit their needs. A health services representative may also help a person to find their way in the Canadian health care system. Whether a person is looking for the closest walk-in clinic, travel clinic, or want to know where to take their child for immunizations, the 811 system representatives have the ability to direct a person to the services they need that are closest to where they are currently living. Language may not present a barrier to communication because Canada's 811 system provides translation services in more than 130 languages.

When you, or a person you know, requires non-emergency health information or advice - call 811. A registered nurse will assess your needs and provide information about:

An 811 Nurse Assess Needs and Provides Information About:
A local clinic
Contacting a community service
When to go to an emergency room
Making an appointment with a doctor

What to Expect When You Call 811

Each person who calls Canada's 811 system will speak with a registered nurse. In some circumstances it is necessary to contact center agents to answer to the call and arrange for a callback from a nurse. A person will be asked to describe the symptoms they are experiencing and answer questions in order to best assess the seriousness of their issue.

The nurses at 811 use standardized clinical guideline software to triage calls. Through a telephone interview that lasts around 10 minutes on average, the nurse collects important information and assesses a person's needs. Based upon the assessment, the nurse provides information, education and advice concerning self-care or helps the person to decide whether to make an appointment with their doctor, a clinic, a community service, or a visit to a hospital emergency room. When a person's call does not involve information for health advice or care, they may be transferred to listen to 1 of 320 recorded information topics available from an audiotape library.

Chart showing Canadian provinces that have already implemented the 811 system
About This Image: Chart showing Canadian provinces that have already implemented the 811 system
Background on the 811 Phone Number

In the year 2005, the 811 telephone number was reserved across Canada by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for exclusive use by provincial health departments. The 811 phone number, in place of the toll-free phone number, is easier to remember when a person needs care that is non-emergent or advice. The following provinces have already implemented the 811 service in place of a 1-800 phone number:

  • Yukon
  • Quebec
  • Nova Scotia
  • British Columbia

The Government of New Brunswick has launched 811 as the telephone number for, 'Tele-Care.' Implementation of the new phone number required minimal changes to the telephone system and ensured no delays or changes in service. New Brunswick's additional public toll-free lines remain unchanged with the implementation of the 811 system. Tele-Care is the 1st service to move to 811 and eventually every health-related toll-free line for the Government of New Brunswick will be re-routed to the 811 service.

Tele-Care was launched in January or 1995 as a pilot project in Zone 1 of Moncton, New Brunswick. The year of 1997 found Tele-Care being launched across the entire province as a 24/7, bilingual telephone triage service and being outsourced to a 3rd party provider - Clinidata/Sykes. It was anticipated that Tele-Care would reduce the pressures placed on hospital emergency rooms by supporting people who called in their decisions to choose self-care when appropriate, to to pursue other, less-costly primary care components of the Canadian health care system. Tele-Care is helping in just such a manner while assisting people to perform self-care. It is serving people with limited access in an effort to improve health care for people in New Brunswick.

The Saskatchewan Health Care System

The Saskatchewan health care system is made up of many provincial, regional and local organizations working together to ensure we have healthy people in healthy communities. The Minister of Health oversees the strategic direction of the system. Saskatchewan Health oversees and co-ordinates the delivery of health services in the province.

811 - Info-Sante

Info-Sante is a telephone service that puts you in contact with a health professional to discuss a non-emergency problem. This professional consultation service is available 24/7 to answer day-to-day health questions and direct people to the right door to knock on in the health and social service system.

Tele-Care 8-1-1

Tele-Care is a free, confidential, health advice and information line. Dial 811 for access to bilingual, registered nurses, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In an emergency, call 911 or visit the local emergency department.

Related Information:

  1. Free Phone Service Offers Advice on Memory Loss and Dementia - University of Michigan Health System - (Mar 08, 2012)
  2. Lifeline Discounted Monthly Phone Service - Thomas C. Weiss - (Nov 10, 2013)
  3. 2-1-1 Information - United States and Canada - Disabled World - (Jun 08, 2012)

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