Specialist LINK is the name of an innovative service that connects family doctors and specialists in the Calgary area. Developed thanks to a unique partnership between the seven Calgary and area Primary Care Networks and Alberta Health Services, its ultimate goal is to improve patient care.
Family physicians and nurse practitioners can request tele-advice from a specialist in real time. Pediatricians also accept calls from midwives. In addition, specialists can now use this line to call other specialists regarding patient care. Specialists will return a doctor’s call within one hour. This enhances physicians’ ability to manage a patient in the office with close support from specialty care. The service also provides an opportunity to receive collegial advice, education and mutual support.
Tele-advice is available during regular business hours, when patients are most likely to be seen in their doctor’s office -- Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding statutory holidays (chronic pain until 4 p.m.).
There are two easy ways to request tele-advice:
Requests are forwarded directly to a pager or a cell phone. When a request is made by phone the specialist sees code “51” followed by a call-back number. For online requests, the specialist receives a message that says, ‘Specialist Link’ the requesting physician’s name and a direct call back number.
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 at 1.800.661.1700.
If you have trouble connecting to a specialist, try calling 403.910.2551 or toll free at 1.844.962.5465, enter #0 and your call will be redirected to support staff. You can also contact the Specialist LINK administrator at 587.774.9740 or the Calgary Foothills PCN Program Manager at 403.618.9372. Alternatively, please email specialistLink@cfpcn.ca.
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, as appropriate.
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. You can also prepare for the call by having the patient's Personal Health Number close at hand.
Yes. Pediatricians provide support for anyone up to 17 years of age. The other services connected to Specialist LINK tele-advice provide advice on adult patients age 18 and older.
- Family doctors can seek non-urgent advice about any patient-related 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, request tele-advice. You may also need help with system navigation issues, or simply need reassurance.
- The specialist can offer 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.
1) Patient’s name and health care number
2) Practice ID
We encourage everyone 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.
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. The billing code for specialist physician to nurse practitioner is 03.01LJ.
No. As per best practice guidelines, tele-advice conversations must be recorded by both the requesting physician and the specialist in their respective records.
No. The specialists have a rotation schedule.
Specialty physicians currently practising in Calgary zone. Chronic pain services are supported by specialized Nurse Practitioners.
Yes. Specialists taking the calls are supporting Specialist LINK through mutual interest.
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.
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.
CME credits are available through
Some patient resources, including testimonials are available under the patient tab at www.specialistlink.ca .
For Government of Alberta patient education, please visit:
In the Calgary area, there are now two great ways to get timely non-urgent advice for your patient. Contact Specialist LINK for a response within one hour, or submit an Alberta Netcare eReferral Advice Request and receive a response within five calendar days.