Exploring 811 use in Nova Scotia

Introduced in 2009, Nova Scotia’s 811 telehealth system compromises of a telephone triage service by dialing 8-1-1 (or 7-1-1 for TTY) and a website with evidence-based information on more than 500 health-related topics – both available 24/7, 365 days per year. The telephone triage service connects callers to non-emergency health information and services. Callers receive medical advice and reliable health information from Registered Nurses. 811 provides services in over 125 languages.

About the study

On behalf of the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness (DHW), the MSSU conducted a research study around the use of the 811 telephone triage service and online resources. The study explored why the public does or does not use 811 services, with a specific focus on vulnerable and marginalized groups. This information was collected to help to identify opportunities to increase public awareness and use of 811 services. This study was approved by the Nova Scotia Health Authority Research Ethics Board (NSHA REB, ROMEO File # 1024874).


Between November, 2019 – January, 2020, 289 Nova Scotians completed a short online survey or in-person interview about their experiences using or not using 811 services, and their general comfort level accessing health information. The survey also asked questions about the person responding to help us to understand more about them.

Our research team engaged with several community organizations to encourage participation from a broad range of individuals from all over Nova Scotia. As one example, we worked with the Immigration Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) who facilitated interviews with individuals who were new to Nova Scotia or a part of the immigrant community. Some of these interviews took place in a language other than English with the help of a telephone-based translation service. After we closed the survey, community members attended an engagement session to provide feedback on how our research team interpreted the survey results. This session shaped how we reported our findings.

We would like to thank everyone who completed the 811 survey, and our community and Patient Partners who supported recruitment efforts and provided valuable feedback on initial findings.


Please note that this research study was conducted prior to COVID-19, which has had a profound impact on our health care system. As 811 is playing an important role in the pandemic response, it is possible that Nova Scotians may have different experiences using these services than at the time the research was conducted.

Project Lead

Dr. Amy Grant, Senior Health Policy Researcher, MSSU, Nova Scotia Health

Exploring 811 use in Nova Scotia