Health Link (403-943-5465 Calgary or 1-866-408-5465 toll free) is an Alberta Health Services (AHS) affiliated telephone service that is known for “helping people avoid trips to the emergency room.” They primarily offer symptom-based advice, but can also be a very useful tool if you have questions about the intricacies of AHS. It has 24/7 availability, and I have never waited more than 3 minutes to speak with an operator or nurse.
Health Link can help you access you medical and immunization records, tell you about your Alberta Health Care Insurance coverage, help you find the nearest medical facility, give you medical advice based on your current symptoms, answer questions for new parents, provide tips for healthy eating, give you information about diabetes, and much more. One of the most valuable services that Health Link provides, is a telephone triage of your medical concerns. Tell a nurse your symptoms, and they will recommend for you to do self-care at home, make an appointment with your family physician, or head to the nearest urgent care facility or emergency department. This saves patients and families the stress of waiting in an emergency department, and reduces the strain on the hospital if your condition can be addressed at home or at a primary care clinic.
Check out http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/223.asp for a brief summary of the service.
I have been amazed by the wealth of knowledge behind Health Link Alberta. I have called the line a few times to confirm information reported my previous articles, with few expectations. I thought that the service was set up to answer medical inquiries only – and that healthcare-related information finding was something that I’d have to scour the Internet for myself. The questions I had for them were quite specific and diverse from the symptom-related questions they usually receive – questions like, “What happens if a person chooses palliative home care and then decides that they’d be more comfortable in a brick-and-mortar hospice?” and “If a person chooses palliative home care, what financial responsibility do they have towards the purchase of essential medical equipment?” My experience is that the Health Link is optimized to handle symptom-related questions and concerns (the first question they ask is “are you experiencing medical symptoms and require the guidance of a registered nurse?”) but they also have enormous knowledge and a database of information in front of them regarding the complexities of Alberta Health Care. The phone operators will search the Internet with you, over the phone, and are likely to have greater success finding information because they know the keywords to use, and know of useful websites. If they cannot answer your question have patience – they will redirect you to a place (website or phone number) that will be able to provide you the answer you’re looking for.
Health Link Alberta has a sister website, www.myhealth.alberta.ca, which serves as personal health portal. It has up-to-date health information that is tailored for an Alberta audience.
This website provides:
- Important phone numbers (for example, Health Link Alberta, Mental Health Helpline, Addiction Services Helpline, Poison & Drug Information Service, etc.)
- Emergency Department wait times for Calgary and Edmonton
- Medical procedure wait times
- An online symptom checker
- Health and travel advisories
- Handouts for patient care (I find the ones related to end-of-life decision making particularly interesting and relevant to the philosophies of Aspen Care. Find them at https://myhealth.alberta.ca/health/aftercareinformation/Pages/default.aspx)
- And health topics categorized by age, gender, body part, etc. (The “senior” health issues page was again, particularly relevant our mission at Aspen Care. Find it at https://myhealth.alberta.ca/health/Pages/Conditions.aspx?hwid=center1031)
Wishing you a happy and healthy week!