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HealthLine 811

Q: What is HealthLine?

A: HealthLine is a provincial service operated by the Regina Qu'Appelle Regional Health Authority. It is staffed 24-hours a day by Registered Nurses who provide confidential health information and support to callers by the telephone. Specially trained Social Workers are also available to provide mental health and addictions crisis support.

Q: How long has the Saskatchewan HealthLine been operational?

A: HealthLine has been available since 2003.

Q: How many calls does HealthLine typically answer every month?

A: On average, HealthLine answers over 5,800 calls per month (based on stats for the period of April 1, 2012-December 31, 2012).

Q: How much funding does the province provide to HealthLine?

A: The current annual budget for HealthLine is $3.7M.

Q: Why is government changing the phone number for HealthLine?

A: Switching to an easily recognizable three-digit telephone number will improve access to basic health information and advice for Saskatchewan residents.

Q: Why did you choose 811 as the new number?

A: The 811 dialing code is reserved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for access to non-urgent health care telephone triage services across Canada.

Q: Who else uses 811 for non-urgent health care telephone triage?

A: Four provinces (British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Quebec) and one territory (Yukon) currently use the 811 number. Several more jurisdictions are considering adopting this standard.

Q: How is this different than calling 911?

A: 911 should be called for emergency situations. HealthLine is for non-urgent health advice and support.

Q: Who typically calls HealthLine?

A: Anyone with a health question or needing health advice. The professionals who work at HealthLine are experienced and specially trained to help you make decisions about your health care options. They can help you decide whether to treat your own symptoms, go to a clinic, see your primary health care provider, or access emergency medical care, if necessary.

Q: What happens when I call HealthLine?

A: When you call HealthLine, you have the option to speak with a Registered Nurse or a mental health and addictions professional. If you choose to speak with a Registered Nurse, the nurse will assess your symptoms and provide you with the most appropriate health support or information.

If you choose to speak to a mental health and addictions professional, you will be able to discuss your concerns in a safe, caring, and confidential manner with a Registered Psychiatric Nurse or Social Worker. They may help you with crisis counseling, strategies to help you manage your situation, or provide information about resources in your community.

Q: What tools do the nurses use to assess my symptoms?

A: HealthLine staff use protocols that are medically approved and validated. Callers are triaged through a series of questions. Nurses use decision support software in addition to their clinical expertise throughout the encounter.

Q: Won't HealthLine just tell me to go to the Emergency Room?

A: The professionals at HealthLine assess each caller's individual situation. Seeking emergency or follow up care from a physician are only two of the possible options. Callers may also be provided with health information, or advised to seek interim care such as treating symptoms at home or accessing care from a provider other than a physician (such as public health or a pharmacist).

Based on statistics for the first 9 months of the 2012-13 fiscal year (April 1, 2012-

December 31, 2012):

5% are advised to hang up and call 911;

25% of callers are advised to go to the Emergency Department immediately;

19% are provided with information to manage symptoms at home;

The remainder are generally advised to seek follow up care with their family physician or other healthcare provider.

Q: That still seems like a high percentage of calls sent to the Emergency Room. Why is that?

A: Callers are triaged over the phone, which is much more difficult than examining someone in person. Callers are triaged using a series of questions. In addition to using medically approved and validated decision support software, nurses use their clinical expertise to assess the caller. Information provided by the caller, tone, demeanor and health literacy may be considered during this process.

Q: Does it cost anything when I call?

A: HealthLine is free of charge to all residents of Saskatchewan.

Q: Is the service only in English?

A: HealthLine services are offered in English, with translation available in over 100 languages.

Q: What about hearing impaired callers?

A: TTY access for the hearing impaired is available at 1-888-425-4444.

Q: How does it work when I call from a pay phone?

A: All calls using a three digit telephone number are free of charge. You do not need to pay to call HealthLine from a pay phone.

Q: What if I forget to call 811 and use the old phone number (1-877-800-0002) instead?

A: Both telephone numbers are functional and will connect you to HealthLine. We will monitor the use of both phone numbers for a period of time, and as people remember to dial 811, we will eventually phase out the old phone number. However, the old phone number won't be phased out for several years.

Q: My cellular device has an out of province phone number. How do I connect with HealthLine?

A: Any cellular device being used within Saskatchewan will connect to the HealthLine.

Q: I have a fridge magnet with the old phone number at home. How do I get a new one?

A: New fridge magnets and other promotional materials will be available from the Ministry of Health. Please contact Debbie Ruth at (306) 798-0198 or druth@health.gov.sk.ca to find out more.

Q: I have printed materials with the old phone number available for distribution. Should I throw these resources out?

A: The old phone number will remain functional, so old printed materials can continue to be used. As new resources are printed, the new 811 number will be included. The Ministry of Health also has pre-printed stickers available to cover up the old phone number on printed materials. Please contact Debbie Ruth at (306) 798-0198 or druth@health.gov.sk.ca to find out more.

Q: Where else can I access health advice from home?

A: You can find health information and advice on the internet at http://www.healthlineonline.ca/ The information on this website has been reviewed by physicians and other health care providers and is continually updated to reflect the most current standards and best practices. The website also offers interactive health tools and decision aids to help readers make informed health decisions.

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