• What is Specialist Link?

    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.

    Specialist Link includes a real-time, physician-only tele-advice lineclinical care pathways and other resources that support family physicians to care for their patients.

  • Who can use the tele-advice line?

    Calgary and area 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. 

  • When is Specialist Link tele-advice available to me?

    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, child & adolescent and geriatric psychiatry, maternal fetal medicine, refugee health and respirology until 4 p.m.).

  • How do I connect with Specialist Link to speak with a specialist?

    There are two easy ways to request tele-advice:

    1. Visit www.specialistlink.ca, select the desired specialty from the main menu, enter your information (including a direct call-back number) and wait for your call to be returned

    2. Call 403.910.2551 or toll-free at 1.844.962.5465 (LINK). Please reference the tele-advice call tree.

  • How will a specialist know I have requested tele-advice?

    Requests are forwarded directly to a pager or a cell phone. When a request is made by phone the specialist sees code “SL” followed by a call-back number. For online requests, the specialist receives a message that says, ‘SL’ the requesting physician’s name, practice identification number and a direct call back number.

  • 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. Alternatively, email [email protected].

  • 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 (i.e. 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 ask the specialist?

    • 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.

  • 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. The billing code for specialist physician to nurse practitioner is 03.01LJ.

  • 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 practising 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.

    • Specialist Physician to Nurse Practitioner: 03.01LJ

  • 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?

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

  • 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.

    eReferral Advice Request provides 20+ specialty advice options in the Calgary Zone. It also leverages existing information from Alberta Netcare (such as demographics, labs and diagnostic imaging) that can be used when making your request. For more information about eReferral, go online.

    What are the benefits of using specialty advice?

    Using specialty advice can provide the following benefits:

    ·         In many cases, information received by the specialist is enough to manage the patient in the medical home and avoid an in-person specialist appointment.

    ·         If an in-person specialist appointment is required, responses from specialists can better prepare the patient or help you initiate treatment before their consultation.

  • How can we contact Specialist Link?

    If you have any questions or experience any challenges with the tele-advice line, you can contact the Specialist LINK administrator at 403.910.2551, extension 0, or email [email protected].

  • Can I cancel a tele-advice request or page, or change contact information?

    Our service is automated, so it is not possible to cancel a request (which results in the specialist being paged). When you receive a call back, please let the specialist know you no longer require advice.

    To correct or change your contact information, please submit another request with the correct information.

  • How do I bill if the Specialist on Specialist Link is a Fellow/R5?

    A specialty fellow/R5 may be on-call on Specialist Link, on occasion.  In these cases, the supervising attending for the specialty fellow on specialist link will be the responsible physician for advice given. It would be the supervising attending’s prac id number that will be shared for billing purposes with the physician requesting advice.