The Health Service Executive says it is fielding 20 queries a day from people seeking treatment in hospitals abroad under an EU cross-border scheme.
Demand for the EU cross-border directive (CBD) is doubling every six months, although so far only 300 Irish people have availed of it.
Under the directive, Irish residents who are entitled to health services here can access them in other EU states.
The scheme is potentially useful for patients on waiting lists for inpatient, day case or outpatient treatment, which is available without delay in other countries.
The executive has defended the actions it has taken to publicise the scheme, which has been in place since 2014.
“The HSE is informing patients and the referring doctors in a manner most appropriate to facilitating access for patient under the CBD who wish to exercise their rights,” said a spokesman.
Information on the scheme was available on a "very comprehensive" website (hse.ie/crossborderdirective)and presentations had also been made to patient groups and doctors, the spokesman said.
Patients are also being told about the scheme when they query waiting times.
Patients have to pay for their treatment abroad first and then seek reimbursement. There is also a “prior authorisation” option that may facilitate them borrowing the cost of treatment.
Healthcare availed of abroad is reimbursed at the cost of the treatment abroad or the cost of that treatment here in the public system in Ireland, whichever is the lesser.
According to the executive, 1,601 queries on the scheme were received in the first three months of this year, compared to 4,000 in all of last year.
Some 165 reimbursements were processed up to March, more than in the whole of last year.