HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia has put a hold on giving new participants access to an innovative, online service that patients use to view their health records and communicate with doctors.

The province limited access to the MyHealthNS portal after attempts to renew a contract with software vendor McKesson Canada fell through, Health Minister Randy Delorey told reporters Thursday after a cabinet meeting. The Liberal government is now looking for a new company to operate the digital service.

In 2016, the province and the federal government announced a three-year, $13.3-million investment in the project.

Delorey said the actual cost ended up totalling $8.5 million, with about $4.5 million of that paid in fees to McKesson, which developed the online system.

Ottawa provided about three-quarters of the money to date, with the province's contribution amounting to about $2 million.

The payments to McKesson were largely based on the number of users who registered and used the portal. The more users registered, the more money the software vendor received.

McKesson spokesman Andrew Forgione said in an email that negotiations between the company and the provincial government went on for eight months before the firm withdrew.

He said there were various reasons McKesson pulled out of talks, "including physician and patient uptake in the service."

Forgione said the company "remains committed to ensuring a smooth transition for all patients and physicians that are currently using the system."

Delorey said the software has proved to be a valuable tool for physicians and patients, and he wants to keep it going.

"The feedback from both physicians and patients has been positive," said Delorey. "When you log in you're able to see information you'd not otherwise have access to. Things like digital imaging and your blood lab test results."

"We're committed to continuing to provide a portal for patients to have access to information."

The government said that for the time being, doctors and patients will continue to have access to all the portal's features.