News release

Electronic Surgical Consult Referrals Will Mean Better Communication, Shorter Wait Times

The Province is making it easier for physicians to book surgical consults and patients to get information with a new healthcare tool to manage surgical referrals.

A new electronic surgical consult referral system, Ocean eReferrals, will provide better information to patients on the status of their referral and will, over time, lead to shorter wait times. It will make sending and receiving surgical referrals easier and faster for primary care providers and surgeons.

“Waiting for care is hard for patients and their families. It’s also frustrating for healthcare professionals when they don’t have the information to answer their patients’ questions,” said Health and Wellness Minister Michelle Thompson. “Nova Scotians deserve short wait times that will keep them out of pain and allow them to move on with their lives.”

With the new system, primary care providers will send their requests for surgical consultations through e-referral instead of faxing, emailing or mailing requests directly to a surgeon. It will allow for better tracking, review and management of referrals and, in time, will include consult wait time information to allow for faster consults.

Patients who provide an email address and referring providers will receive automatic notifications when their referral is received, forwarded to a surgeon, and when a consult is booked or changed.

The service goes live for primary care providers and surgeons at Nova Scotia Health and IWK Health on Friday, March 31.


The long overdue model, combined with other initiatives and investments, is helping us transform surgical care for Nova Scotians. Gaining insight into the number and types of surgical referrals, how long patients are waiting to see a surgeon and more, will help lead to shorter waits for consults and give Nova Scotia Health and IWK Health the information we need to plan. Dr. Greg Hirsch, cardiac surgeon and Senior Medical Director, Perioperative Services Network, Nova Scotia Health

I am excited about the impact this tool will have on my patients and my day-to-day work. Knowing my referral options and what happens with referrals after they are sent will help me provide timely care for my patients. I believe this initiative will help us fulfill our promise to offer patients the care that they deserve, which is the right care, in the place of their choosing, at the right time. Susan Savage, nurse practitioner, Caledonia, Queens County

Having a uniform process for referral will simplify the practices of both family physicians and specialists. eReferral also has the potential to give us data to better track wait times and waitlists so that future resources can be directed strategically. Dr. Dafydd Davies, Chief of Surgery, IWK Health

Quick Facts:

  • all non-emergency surgical referrals will eventually be processed centrally through the system
  • work is underway to expand the use of the system to allow for e-referrals for diagnostic imaging services including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) scans and ultrasounds
  • the need for a co-ordinated approach to surgical referrals was highlighted in a 2014 Auditor General report on surgical access and in various accreditation surveys

Additional Resources:

Action for Health, the government’s plan to improve healthcare in Nova Scotia: