What is Specialist LINK?

Specialist LINK is a critical link in the chain of patient care. Family doctors can use the tele-advice line 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 one hour. 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 the Specialist LINK tele-advice line?
  • Chronic pain
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Endocrinology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Hepatology
  • Nephrology
  • Neurology
  • Palliative care
  • Pediatrics (PaedLINK)
  • Podiatric surgery
  • Psychiatry
  • Respirology
  • Rheumatology
  • Sports medicine
  • Vascular surgery
Who can use Specialist LINK?

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

When is Specialist LINK tele-advice available to me?

It is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. excluding statutory holidays. Chronic pain is open until 4 p.m. This service 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?

There are two main ways to request tele-advice. You can request a service via our home page, leaving your name and direct phone number, or call 403.910.2551 or toll-free at 1.844.962.5465. Your request will be forwarded to the specialist's cell phone or pager. Your call will be returned within one hour. If you experience any difficulties, please dial #0 (via a phone request) and your call will be redirected to support staff. You can also call 587.774.9740 or 403.618.9372.

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 request 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 one hour.

Can I contact Specialist LINK tele-advice 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 at 1.800.661.1700.

I have requested tele-advice and a specialist has not returned my call. What should I do?

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.

Can I request tele-advice 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, as appropriate. 

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. You can also prepare for the call by having the patient's Personal Health Number close at hand.

Is there an age restriction?

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.

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, request to speak with a specialist. You may also need help with system navigation issues, or simply need 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 other information do I need to give the specialist when I request tele-advice?

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.
Can Nurse Practitioners use the tele-advice line?

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 conversations 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 who 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 tele-advice line, you can contact the Specialist LINK administrator at 587.774.9740, Calgary Foothills PCN Program Manager at 403.618.9372 or email specialistlink@cfpcn.ca.

How do Specialist LINK and eReferral Advice Request work together?

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. 

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