Linking
Calgary and area
Physicians
Together

FAQs

What is Specialist LINK?

Specialist LINK is a critical link in the chain of patient care. This is a telephone advice line that family doctors can use to contact a specialist for advice about a patient in real time. Specialists can now also use this line to call other specialists regarding patient care. Specialists will return a doctor’s call within 30 minutes so your patient can remain for the return call. This quick response enhances the ability to manage a patient in the family physician’s office with close support from specialty care. The link also provides an opportunity to receive collegial advice, education and mutual support.

What specialty groups offer services through Specialist LINK?
  • Chronic Pain
  • Endocrinology
  • Gastroenterology
  • General Neurology
  • Hepatology
  • Pediatrics (PaedLINK)
  • Respirology
  • Rheumatology
Who can use Specialist LINK?

All physicians and nurse practitioners in Calgary and area. Pediatricians also accept calls from Midwives.

When is Specialist LINK available to me?

It is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. excluding statutory holidays. Specialist LINK provides support for family physicians during regular business hours, when patients are most likely to be seen in their doctor's office.

How do I connect with Specialist LINK to speak with a specialist?

Call Local: 403.910.2551 or toll free 1.844.962.5465. Your call will be connected to the specialists of your choice cell phone or pager and prompted to leave your phone number. Your call will be returned within 30 minutes. If you experience any difficulties, please dial #0 and your call will be redirected to support staff.

How will a specialist know that the call connection comes through Specialist LINK?

Family physicians will be connected via a programmed call-forwarding service. The inbound call is forwarded directly to a pager and in some occasions a cell phone. For specialists who use the pager system, the Specialist LINK code will be seen on the display: “51-” followed by the direct call back number of the physician calling. This will direct the specialist to return the call within 30 minutes.

Can I call Specialist LINK for urgent cases?

NO. Urgent matters should be directed to the on-call specialist at the appropriate acute care site or depending on specialty, RAAPID South at 403.944.4488 or toll free 1.800.661.1700.

I have called the Specialist LINK and a specialist has not returned my call, what should I do?

If you have trouble connecting to a specialist, try re-dialing 403.910.2551 or toll free 1.844.962.5465, dial #0 and your call will be redirected to support staff. You can also contact the Specialist LINK administrator directly at 587.774.9739 or Calgary Foothills PCN Program Manager at 403.618.9372 or SpecialistLink@cfpcn.ca.

Can I call Specialist LINK for referral status questions?

No. Specialist LINK is not intended for information on referral status. If there is new information to support the referral or questions about triage status, please connect directly with Central Access and Triage. 

How will I make sure the specialist can contact me?

Be sure to provide a direct telephone number, so you know the specialist can reach you directly (ie. cell or clinic back door number). Please do not provide us with a clinic number when your clinic is closed, including lunch or other times.

Is there an age restriction?

Yes. Pediatricians provide support for anyone up to 17 years of age. The other services connected to Specialist LINK provide advice on adult patients age 18 and older.

What can I consult the specialist about?
  • Family doctors can seek advice from the specialist about any questions or concerns. For example, if you have a patient in front of you and there are red flags that concern you, or the patient has not improved in the last six months – call the line. You may also need help with system navigation issues, or you simply need some reassurance. 
  • The specialist can support you with advice on diagnostic testing, general management, therapeutics or other clinical questions. The length of calls varies between five to 10 minutes. The specialist will not confirm a diagnosis. They can discuss best-fit diagnoses and support you with a care plan.
What information do I need to give the specialist when I call?

Patient’s name and health care number

Practice ID

We encourage people to use a standard, structured communication approach such as SBAR:

  • Situation - A statement of the problem: what is the concern?
  • Background - Brief information related to the problem: what has happened?
  • Assessment - Analysis/consideration of options: outline what you found/think.
  • Recommendation - Request/recommend action: state what you need.
Can Nurse Practitioners call Specialist LINK?

Yes. Specialist LINK is meant to provide support for primary care givers. It is important to keep in mind the communication channels and ensure decisions regarding care are communicated through the primary care giver - either the family doctor or the nurse practitioner.

Will I receive a follow up report after the phone consult?

No. As per best practice guidelines, tele-advice conversation must be recorded by both the requesting physician and the specialist in their respective records

Can I choose the specialist I speak to?

No. The specialists have a rotation schedule.

Who supports Specialist LINK?

Specialty physicians currently practicing in Calgary zone. Chronic Pain services are supported by specialized Nurse Practitioners.

Will I always speak to a specialist that is actively involved in patient care practice?

Yes. Specialists taking the calls are supporting Specialist LINK through mutual interest

Can I bill for this consult?

Yes. You will need the specialist practice ID to complete the billing. 

  • Physician to Physician Telehealth  03.01LG for family physician.
  • Physician to Physician Telehealth  03.01LJ for specialist physician.
  • Calls to Chronic Pain are not eligible for billing.
Can I call for advice for general management of my patients who have significant barriers to attend specialty appointments?

Yes. The specialist can support you with advice on diagnostic testing, general management, therapeutics or other clinical questions.

  • Specialist LINK supports family physicians who share the same language by directing care to the patient with the support of the specialist.
  • Specialist LINK has been used by family physicians who had patients that are challenged by traveling to appointments.
  • If a formal specialist consult is required after the tele-conversation, a referral should be sent to Central Access and Triage.
Can I link this experience to CME credits?

CME credits are available through

Where can I find some patient resources and information on care pathways?

Government of Alberta, patient education:

If you have any questions or experience any challenges with the phone advice line, you can contact the Specialist LINK administrator at 587.774.9739, Calgary Foothills PCN Program Manager at 403.618.9372 or  SpecialistLink@cfpcn.ca.

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