Increasing your odds of surviving the corona virus by taking advantage of online services

Back a few days ago I pulled together a list of several online resources for an older friend of mine who really wanted to stay home as much as possible. While that friend was reasonably computer savvy, they weren’t aware of the many online applications that I just take for granted. They thought they only way to accomplish certain tasks was the old fashioned way: leave the house and go meet people.

Many people are already aware of the bulk of this information. But I’m also guessing most of them also know others who might find this information as helpful as my friend did. Since many of you probably don’t have the time to write something like this up on your own, I thought I would save you some trouble and also post it here. Feel free to use, edit or ignore these suggestions as you see fit.

Groceries

As you know, everyone should avoid going into a physical grocery store as much as possible. Given the crowds that visit daily they are quite risky and will become even more so in the near future.

While grocery delivery is the ideal solution, it isn’t available in all areas. Even where it is available, many stores are booked out a week or more.

But many of the larger chains like WalmartTarget and HyVee also offer curbside pickup. In most cases all you do is order and pay online and then schedule a time to go pick things up. While same day pickup isn’t always possible, it usually isn’t too tough to schedule something for the next day. This is particularly true if you do your shopping earlier in the day.

In most cases you just drive to a designated spot in the store parking lot and check in either via an app, text message, or call. Someone will then come right to your car and put everything in your back seat or trunk for no charge and with little interaction (you typically just stay in the car).

Even many non-grocery retailers are now offering curbside pickup.

Pharmacy

Most insurance plans offer at least some type of online pharmacy that will mail you your prescriptions. Typically it is either Express Scripts or CVS Caremark. They are not ideal for things you need right away, but they work well for things you take everyday.

If you are taking mostly fairly common generic drugs, Health Warehouse often works easier and is sometimes even cheaper. Health Warehouse doesn’t take insurance, but their standard prices are often the same or less than the copays charged by many insurance companies.

The main downside to most of these services is that it takes a bit of work to get them setup. Typically you need to call your doctor and have them send the pharmacy your prescription. While this is typically done electronically today, the whole process can take a few days depending on how quickly your doctor responds. So don’t wait until the last minute to order.

Keep in mind you can always use an online pharmacy for everyday medications and a local pharmacy for things you need quickly. In addition be aware that many emergency rooms and urgent care facilities now have pharmacy vending machines where you can fill a prescription at any time. These can be particularly helpful if you find yourself making a late night e-visit with a doctor.

Medical services

With clinics and hospitals now directing most of their attention to Covid-19 patients, getting a physical appointment with your doctor is now difficult if not impossible. If you aren’t aware already, most facilities are now encouraging their patients to use their e-visit services to get advice and prescriptions for common ailments. (Gunderson and Mayo)

In addition almost every provider now makes your personal medical records available online. These services also typically allow you to securely email your doctor or their team (because of HIPPA requirements, you typically can’t just use normal email) (Mayo and Gunderson).

If you suddenly need glasses there are also several online options. Here is a review of three of the bigger services. Note that prices for glasses online can often be substantially cheaper as well.

General Merchandise shopping

Amazon is of course the most dominant online retailer. However they are currently also among the most overwhelmed. As a result, you may want to try some other options depending on what you need. Take a look at places like Wayfair (furniture, appliances and home goods), Newegg (computers) AliExpress (everything) and Blinds.com (window coverings). A few traditional retailers like WalmartTargetHome DepotLowesMacy’s and Gap also have good online storefronts.

Banking

Almost all banks now have advanced forms of online banking if you aren’t already taking advantage of them. Most even allow you to deposit checks just by taking a picture of them with your phoneOnline bill pay of course is pretty much a no brainer (never mail a payment again). If you still get paid a lot in cash, some ATMs will accept cash deposits as well as checks (usually limited to the ATMs at a bank’s physical branches).

BTW because handing over cash usually involves fairly close physical contact (particularly at stores), try to avoid paying people this way (while the risk to you is low, the risk to a cashier is greater). In stores use a credit or debit cards whenever possible. When paying individuals, anyone with a bank account can usually be paid via Zelle (check your banks app to see if they offer the service – many banks do). For other situations consider Venmo or Square Cash.

That said be aware that for many smaller financial institutions the online banking experience can seem like a bit of an afterthought While most offer the basics, the services often aren’t as polished or easy to use as those offered by larger banks or online-only institutions. Most people won’t have a problem and the software at most continues to improve. But if you are ready to switch banks, here is a list of some of the better online institutions.

Shipping

Many people don’t realize that the post office lets you do almost everything online. You can even schedule to have your packages picked up or get emailed pictures of everything the post office will be putting in your mailbox. You can get postage and  free shipping boxes delivered to your house and even print out mailing labels at home.

Needless to say, UPS and FedEx also offer similar services.