Navigating Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic: How to Get the Help You Need, When You Need It

While in-person care is necessary, telemedicine can be faster for non-emergency medical health care decisions.

Having choices when it comes to your health care decisions is a good thing. But making the right choice about where to go for care can be overwhelming — especially during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While there are situations when in-person care is necessary, telemedicine can be a faster and more convenient option for non-emergency medical needs. Being informed on how to access care can help you choose the most appropriate approach when a health need comes up.


If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the symptoms below, call 911 OR go to your closest Emergency Room.

Covid-19 Related

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Bluish lips or face

Other emergency symptoms

  • Choking
  • Acute pain
  • Severe abdominal pain, bleeding, or chest pain
  • Inability to arouse


Are you or a loved one experiencing any other symptoms of COVID-19?

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Shortness of breath

Refer to the guide below if you have other health concerns.

For non-emergency symptoms of COVID⁠-⁠19, first call your PCP for their expert opinion.

Your doctor may offer telemedicine so you can have a virtual consultation via your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Or use Doctor On Demand, a Harvard Pilgrim partner, if your doctor doesn’t offer telemedicine but you still want a virtual visit.

You can consult the CDC Coronavirus Self-Checker to assess your symptoms and whether you should be tested.

Most people with mild COVID-19 symptoms are able to recover at home. Do not leave, except to get medical care. If symptoms worsen, contact your doctor immediately.


Is your PCP available for a phone call?


Call your PCP to see if you need an appointment now or can wait.

Your doctor knows your health care needs and can direct you to the best care.

Try telemedicine, like Doctor On Demand, to get guidance on where and how to receive care.

Telemedicine technology not available?

Call your local urgent care clinic or convenience care clinic for advice on next steps, before visiting in person.

What about telemedicine?

Telemedicine is a smart, virtual solution that can help you avoid unnecessary visits to the ER, doctor’s office or urgent care. This can help ensure that you limit your exposure to others so that you don’t put yourself or anyone else at risk for COVID-19 and other illnesses.

While many providers are now offering video or phone visits, there are other options available if your health care provider does not offer telemedicine services. You can also access remote support through app-based telemedicine providers such as Doctor On Demand for Harvard Pilgrim members and Teledoc for Tufts Health plan members. Both Doctor On Demand and Teledoc are available all hours of the day, seven days a week.

If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing mild symptoms (fever, cough or shortness of breath), call your health care provider for medical advice first.

Visit Harvard Pilgrim Health Care or Tufts Health Plan to see how we’re handling coverage for our members, and check out additional ways members can access urgent care without going to the ER.

Of course, patients experiencing medical emergencies should always head to the emergency room. No type of acute pain should be delayed in treatment. Chest and severe abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face, or severe bleeding are all reasons to go to an emergency room immediately. Serious head injuries should also be immediately checked at an ER.

Tips for readiness

Save your doctor’s phone number in your mobile phone for easy access. Many practices have coverage for non-office hours, so you likely can reach your doctor or another medical professional who can access your records when necessary.

You can also proactively put a backup plan in place by downloading the Doctor On Demand app or the Teledoc app. When an in-person visit isn’t avoidable, the app will also show urgent care and convenience care clinics that are closest to you, including their hours of operation.