Health Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Importance of routine care
During the pandemic, it is more important than ever to get your regular check-ups and to continue to take prescription medications. The healthier you are, the more likely you are to recover quickly from an illness.
If you have a health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, you are at much higher risk of being hospitalized or having serious complications from a COVID-19 infection. If you are an older adult living with a health condition, you have an even greater risk of getting very sick from the virus. For more information, visit CDC: People with Certain Medical Conditions.
For routine visits, you can talk with your primary care provider, specialist, or other members of your care team by phone, email or telehealth (video).
If you have a health emergency
- If you are having a health emergency, such as an injury, asthma attack or symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, DO NOT WAIT – CALL 911. A quick response can save your life or prevent life-long disability.
- Emergency responders and hospital staff know how to safely transport and provide care without putting you at risk.
- Be prepared. Ask your provider how best to prepare for a health emergency.
- If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, contact your health care provider right away.
- Don’t Delay Care for Medical Emergencies Transcript (PDF)
- Don't Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Amharic (YouTube)
- Don't Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Arabic (YouTube)
- Don't Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Chinese (YouTube)
- Don’t Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Hindi (YouTube)
- Don't Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Hmong (YouTube)
- Don't Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Karen (YouTube)
- Don't Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Lao (YouTube)
- Don't Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Nepali (YouTube)
- Don’t Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Oromo (YouTube)
- Don’t Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Russian (YouTube)
- Don’t Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Somali (YouTube)
- Don't Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Spanish (YouTube)
- Don't Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Swahili (YouTube)
- Don't Delay Care for Medical Emergencies: Vietnamese (YouTube)
- Talk to your health care provider. Ask them about getting a larger supply of your medications (such as for 90 days), so you do not have to go to the pharmacy as often.
- Talk to your pharmacist. They can answer your questions about your medications, such as the cost, side effects, or what to do if you miss a dose. Ask if you can schedule all your prescription refills to happen at the same time.
- Call in your prescription orders ahead of time. Ask if the pharmacy offers a drive-thru window, curbside service, mail-order, or other home delivery service.
- If you do need to visit your pharmacy in person, take the same precautions as you would for in-person clinic visits. Pharmacies may have changed their hours, so call ahead.
- Ask your pharmacist about medication therapy management (MTM), which can help you manage multiple medications and reduce side-effects. Many pharmacies can provide services virtually through telehealth. See Community Pharmacists and Medication Therapy Management.
Do not stop taking any medication or changing how you take medication without first talking with your doctor or health care provider.
It is possible to safely visit your clinic, pharmacy, and testing lab to manage your health conditions. Clinics and health care staff are taking extra precautions to keep patients safe, such as spacing out appointments, limiting visitors, and requiring masks. Some services may only be possible in person, such as routine blood work or dialysis treatment.
Before your visit
Before you visit your clinic, ask about their COVID-19 requirements and restrictions. Most clinics require that staff and patients wear a mask, keep 6 feet apart from others, and take safety precautions when entering the building. Ask what protective steps clinic staff are taking to keep you safe.
Ask your health care provider or clinic if they recommend an in-person appointment for your condition. They may recommend a combination, where you meet with your provider by phone or video and come in person only for lab tests. If you think you may have COVID-19 or if you have had contact with someone with COVID-19, do not visit your clinic. Contact your clinic and ask about what you should do next.
Getting routine lab tests
- Continue to get your routine lab tests.
- Contact your clinic to ask what lab tests you need and when to get them done.
- Some labs have closed due to COVID-19, so ask your clinic where to go.
- Before visiting the lab, take the same precautions as you would with in-person clinics visits, such as wearing a mask and staying 6 feet from others.
Virtual visits, also known as telehealth or telemedicine, are offered using a phone, smartphone, computer or tablet to communicate with your doctor, nurse practitioner, pharmacist, dentist, or other health care worker from any place, including your home.
During a telehealth visit, your provider can treat and monitor your conditions, prescribe medications and order lab tests. They can also talk through any health concerns you have and offer medical advice for managing symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ask your health care provider if they offer telehealth services and if a telehealth visit is right for you.
You will still need to make in-office appointments for tests and procedures, such as blood work, hands-on exams, and in-person follow up visits, if needed.
Call 911 or visit the emergency room for serious or life-threatening conditions, such as an asthma attack, heart attack, stroke, severe low or high blood sugar, coma, loss of consciousness, or broken bones.
Before scheduling a telehealth appointment
If a telehealth visit is an option for you, contact your health insurance to see if telehealth service costs are covered. Many health insurance plans and Medicare and Medicaid cover the cost of telehealth services.
Setting up a telehealth visit
For a video visit, you will need a smartphone, tablet, or computer with a functioning camera and microphone. When you call to set up the appointment, you will learn what you need to connect with your provider. Sometimes, this may be a confirmation phone call, letter, or email with information about how to join the appointment. Typically, you will meet through a website or app (application) or software you download from the provider’s website. At your confirmed appointment time, you and your provider will sign on to the website or app and the visit will begin. Be sure to ask for a contact number in case there are technical problems during your telemedicine visit. If you need to share information from your medical devices, ask the clinic how to upload and send them information from your medical devices.
For a phone visit without video, you can use your cell phone or home phone. Your provider will call you at the number you give to the clinic.
Preparing for the visit
- Try to find a quiet, private place where you can avoid interruptions.
- Make sure your phone, laptop, or desktop computer is fully charged or plugged in. If you are using a website or app, make sure you have a reliable internet connection.
- For a video visit, adjust the lighting so your provider can see you clearly. Many telehealth platforms will show you a preview of how your video looks, so you can try moving to another spot or turning on/off lights.
- Put medical devices you use close by. Your clinic or health care provider will tell you what you will need to have with you when you set up your appointment. Devices could include a thermometer, inhaler, blood pressure monitor, glucose meter or continuous glucose monitor, heart monitor, peak flow meter, insulin pen or pump, pulse oximeter, or a bathroom scale. Take a reading from your device prior to your visit. Record the reading and the time of the reading in your notes to discuss with your provider.
- Write down questions you have ahead of time so you remember to ask them during your visit.
Watch the video "Preparing for a Video Visit" for more information.
During the visit
- Review and write down the next steps in your treatment plan that you and your provider discussed.
- Ask any questions about next steps in your care.
- Set up a follow-up telehealth or in-person visit, as necessary.
Telehealth education and support programs
More and more prevention and disease management programs are now available online and over the phone.
Some examples include:
- Diabetes self-management education: One-on-one or group education services focused on helping you manage diabetes self-care.
- Cardiac rehabilitation: Services focused on helping you make lifestyle changes after a heart problem. Cardiac rehabilitation can help lower your risk of having another stroke or heart attack.
- The National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP): A group program for people at-risk for type 2 diabetes focused on helping you make lifestyle changes and lose weight. The program has been proven to help lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. Find upcoming National DPP classes in your community.
- Allergy & Asthma Network (AAN): One-on-one educational sessions with Certified Asthma Educators called “Asthma Coach.” The program helps people learn asthma self-management skills including proper inhaler technique, dealing with environmental triggers, and how to keep your asthma under control.
Ask your health care provider or clinic about programs that could help you. You can also find lifestyle change or health management programs through Your Juniper, WellConnect, your local public health department, or your health insurance.
Learn more about telehealth visits and care.
- For Patients
Telehealth information for patients, from the U.S. Health and Human Services.
- Telehealth: Health care from the safety of our homes
Information about telehealth and setting up and preparing for telehealth visits during the COVID-19 emergency, from the U.S. Health and Human Services.
- What to Expect from a Telehealth Visit
Video that explains what to expect from a telehealth visit, posted by the Hawaii State Department of Health Genomics Section.
- AARP Answers: Telehealth and the Coronavirus
Information about how to connect with a doctor and get care from home, from the American Association of Retired Persons.
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Telemedicine
A guide to getting ready for your first virtual visit with a doctor, from the American Association of Retired Persons.
- Preparing for a Telehealth Visit - Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Video about what to expect from a telehealth visit, how to best prepare for your telehealth visit, and why a telehealth visit may be the way to work with your health care team during the Coronavirus outbreak; from Mytonomy.