Navigating the online world might help us feel more connected—if we know how to use it

woman sits on couch reading her tablet

The internet is a powerful tool that allows us to communicate, find information and conduct business. Amid a coronavirus pandemic that has kept many of us in our homes, the internet has taken on added significance.

We can go online and connect with everything from research libraries and entertainment to shopping and doctor visits—all from the comfort and safety of home. This can help limit our exposure to disease while allowing us to feel more engaged with the people and activities we care about. But keeping up with changing technology can be a challenge.

Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do online—along with a few tips on how to make the technology work for you.

Telehealth. Many doctors’ offices now offer routine appointments through a video chat using your computer or other smart device, allowing you to access the care you need from the comfort and safety of your home. If your device is not equipped with a camera, you might be able to conduct your appointment by phone. Ask your doctor if this service is offered. If not, Humana’s Medicare Advantage members have access to MDLIVE® and Amwell, nationwide in-network telemedicine providers. Through the end of 2020, Humana is waiving member out-of-pocket costs for telehealth services delivered by participating/in-network providers. This includes outpatient behavioral health services.

Pharmacy. Home delivery of prescriptions offers the convenience and safety of home. Humana Pharmacy, opens new window, a preferred cost-sharing pharmacy on many Humana prescription drug plans, offers mail delivery for covered prescriptions submitted by a prescriber. Members may also check with other pharmacies that may be in their plan’s network to see if they offer delivery.

Grocery delivery. Many websites allow you to buy groceries and have them delivered to your door. You can browse food and other items and order them for delivery later. A recent article from The Washington Post indicates the pandemic has caused demand for these services to soar, leading to delays of as much as a week or more.1

How does it work? Most grocery delivery service companies allow customers to shop from a variety of grocery stores in their hometown via a mobile app or their website. You create a virtual shopping cart online, and a "personal shopper" fulfills your order on a designated day and brings it to your home.

Some of the larger grocery retailers let you buy straight from their own website. Check with the grocery chains in your area to see if they offer delivery or pick-up options.

Additional points to consider when buying groceries online:

  • Most grocery delivery services require a minimum purchase amount on orders.
  • Delivery fees, service charges and tips can add to your cost. Not all services add these fees to your order.
  • Monthly or annual memberships are often available to avoid per-order charges.
  • If you’re outside a service or store’s delivery zone, you still might be able to place your order online and pick it up at the store.

Restaurant delivery. Pizza delivery has been around for decades, but these days, delivery services will bring you almost any kind of food you could want. From third-party food delivery apps ordered through your smart device to local restaurant deliveries, the options are growing.

Meal kits. Other companiesoffer delivery of “meal kits”—everything you need, including instructions, to cook an entire meal at home. There is a wide range of options in complexity, pricing and types of meals offered. Be forewarned: These companies are seeing a surge in popularity because of the lockdown, and some items might not be available.2

Other online retail. You probably already know about the big online marketplaces, but most other large retailers and many small ones offer a wide range of merchandise over the web. You can search for your favorite retailers using a search engine such as Google or Bing, and then go shopping.

Video chats. Now you can see the smiling faces of friends and family as you connect online through a webchat. All it takes is a computer, tablet or phone that’s connected to the internet and equipped with a camera and microphone.

Some videoconference platforms are limited to specific devices or companion software. You might have to explore several options before deciding which one is best for you. Always ensure that you have reviewed the privacy features for whichever platform you use.

Banking. Many of the things you are accustomed to doing in person at your bank can be done online, such as making deposits, transferring money between accounts (such as from savings to checking), paying bills, making credit card payments and paying your mortgage. Check with your bank for details.

Minimum requirements

Here’s a checklist of necessities for making the best use of the online marketplace:

  • Computer. You have to have a computer, tablet or smartphone that is reasonably up to date.
  • Reliable internet connection. Faster is better.
    • Use your own internet data plan, rather than public Wi-Fi networks, to reduce the chance of unauthorized access to your information.
  • A credit card, debit card or preloaded card—if you plan to buy anything. Nearly all online purchases require that you enter your name, account number and other personal information.
  • Secure sites. Be careful when entering personal information online and don’t give more than necessary. Make sure the web address you are using begins with “https,” rather than “http.” The “s” stands for “secure.”

Device options

Computers. Either a desktop or laptop will do the job. Laptops add the convenience factor of portability. There are 2 primary operating systems, Windows and macOS. Either will handle just about any online function you desire—although they are not entirely compatible with one another.

Smartphones. These modern marvels are essentially miniaturized computers that also make phone calls and take pictures. 2 operating systems control 99 percent of the market: Apple’s iOS, which iPhones use (25%), and Google’s Android, which virtually all other brands use (74%). Features and software found on an iPhone are nearly identical in some ways, but different in others, compared to those on an Android phone.3

Tablets. Tablets function like a mix of computer and smartphone. They are lightweight and easily portable and come with or without a keyboard (and even those without a built-in keyboard allow you to buy one separately to connect to them).

Smart speakers. These relatively new devices respond to your voice commands to perform a variety of functions. Since they are mostly sound-oriented, they are not a perfect substitute for a full-size computer. However, if you opt for a similar gadget called a smart display, you essentially have a smart speaker that also includes a screen and a camera.

As CNET put it, a smart speaker is not only a convenience; it also can be “a real boon for anyone with mobility issues, vision loss or reduced dexterity.” Today’s smart speakers can set timers and alarms, play music, read the news, search the web, make calls and even turn your lights on and off.4

Sources:

  1. Abha Bhattarai, “Grocery Delivery Was Supposed to Be the Ultimate Pandemic Lifeline. But It’s Falling Short,” The Washington Post, last accessed May 6, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/15/grocery-delivery-coronavirus/, opens new window.
  2. Hana R. Alberts, “The Best At-Home Meal Kit Delivery Services of 2020,” New York Post, last accessed May 6, 2020, https://nypost.com/article/the-best-meal-delivery-kits/, opens new window.
  3. S. O’Dea, “Mobile Operating Systems’ Market Share Worldwide from January 2012 to December 2019,” Statista, last accessed May 6, 2020, https://www.statista.com/statistics/272698/global-market-share-held-by-mobile-operating-systems-since-2009/, opens new window.
  4. Sarah Mitroff and Molly Price, “6 Ways Seniors Can Use Google Home to Make the COVID-19 Quarantine Easier,” CNET, last accessed May 6, 2020, https://www.cnet.com/how-to/6-ways-seniors-can-use-google-home-to-make-the-covid-19-quarantine-easier/, opens new window