Secure Medical recently interviewed Irma Rastegayeva, cofounder of Boston-based eViRa Health, a business-to-business marketing consultancy. What follows is a condensed and edited version of that exchange. 

Q: As a co-founder at eViRa Health, can you briefly discuss the company’s mission?

A: At eViRa Health, we are digital storytellers with a purpose. We live at the intersection of emerging technologies, healthcare, and patient experience. Our mission is to inform, educate, and inspire the vast healthcare community. We use the power of storytelling and the reach of new media to engage with our audiences, who are healthcare stakeholders spanning health technology, providers, patients, patient advocates and caregivers, payers, pharma and medical device companies, researchers, policymakers, and healthcare executives.

Q: Looking ahead five years, which digital technologies do you expect will most profoundly shape the delivery of healthcare in America and elsewhere around the globe?

A: In my recent 2020 Digital Health Predictions article, I highlighted eight technology trends that have been gaining momentum and are poised to accelerate in 2020 and beyond. I believe that in five years, many of them will become increasingly prevalent and a routine part of healthcare delivery. I’ve organized my list of predictions by their position along the continuum of care, with innovations at the front end of the healthcare continuum having the biggest potential impact on health outcomes and healthcare costs. Those trends are

  1. Disease prevention
  2. Reducing employer healthcare costs
  3. Artificial intelligence for early diagnostics
  4. Digital therapeutics
  5. Care personalization with 3D printing
  6. Creating alternative to opioids
  7. Connected healthcare and the internet of medical things
  8. Digitizing clinical trials

Other technologies that I believe will profoundly shape the way healthcare is delivered in the United States and around the globe include connectivity and telemedicine, particularly as they will be facilitated and enhanced by advanced wireless technologies, and mixed reality. [According to MarketWatch.com, Kenneth Research projects that the global augmented and virtual reality market in healthcare will reach $8.5 billion by 2025.] 

Q: In a LinkedIn article about the role of AI in healthcare that you coauthored with Evan Kirstel, you quote Bill Gates about the tendency to overestimate the magnitude of short-term change while underestimating long-term change. What are your realistic short-term expectations for AI as a force for change in the healthcare industry?

A: While “AI” has become a buzzword that seems to be ubiquitous, it really is an important technology that is ushering in a new era of transformation and rapid growth across every industry. In healthcare, which is my particular area of expertise, artificial intelligence is increasingly being viewed as the “nervous system” and the engine for the growth of this sector of the economy. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can enhance every stage of patient care, from research and discovery to diagnosis to selection of therapy to the monitoring of treatment progress. 

Q: As a self-described “influencer” and “digital storyteller,” what sort of health-related online content is most likely to engage public interest and trigger positive consumer response?

A: I would recommend informative and educational content that is properly targeted to a given audience, can be easily understood, and can be realistically applied. I think it’s essential to go beyond “edutainment” to share accurate, relevant, timely, useful, and actionable information. To achieve that goal, I would encourage using a variety of formats and mediums to meet people where they are and tap into their preferred methods of consuming information, be it text, images, audio, or video. 

Q: What forces do you blame for the public’s relatively slow acceptance of telehealth/telemedicine as a viable alternative to the conventional face-to-face practice of medicine?

A: Uncertainty about the coverage of such services by traditional health insurers and the regulatory environment at both the state and federal levels have been key factors in slow acceptance of telemedicine by both healthcare providers and healthcare consumers as well. We see signs of growing acceptance as some of these questions and uncertainties are resolved. 

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

For more from Irma Rastagayeva, read the full interview on eDrugstore.com.

By Don Amerman

According to WHO, telemedicine is a term formed in the 1970s, which means “healing at a distance.” 

Following the recent Covid-19 pandemic, telemedicine has been at the forefront of the fight against the virus. This global virus has forced a needed change in how we look at healthcare systems. Governments have had to ramp up their telemedicine offerings in recent times to reduce the flow of traffic to emergency rooms.

In a bid to stop endangering healthcare giver’s lives, hospitals around the world are using telemedicine both within and without the hospital to reduce the incursion of patients needing care. Videos visits are helping to minimize exposure of hospital staff and the exposure of immune-compromised patients.

How to Use Telemedicine?

The best place to start is to contact your health care provider. Most hospitals have a telemedicine portal and app for all their patients. Register and follow all their prompts.

However, if you do not have a PCP, you can still get access to urgent care on the go. There are urgent care apps like Ourdoctor that can give you virtual access to a doctor when you need it.

Over the years, telemedicine has aided doctors to treat patients in three categories:

  • Patients with ongoing conditions like depression or diabetes
  • Patients with everyday care issues like birth control or hair loss
  • Patients with urgent care issues like cold and flu

Kyle Rao, CEO of Ourdoctor, says that there are people of all ages benefiting from using telemedicine it isn’t just young people.

How to Pay for Telemedicine?

When you sign up for telemedicine services like Ourdoctor. Insurance is not required. You can either sign up for a one time visit or a monthly subscription.

When Should You Go to the ER?

Issues of a more severe nature warrant for a visit to the ER. For example, regular shortness of breath, given existing circumstances, should be enough reason to visit your doctor.

Advance notice of your arrival at the urgent care center will benefit you in the end.

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, commonly known as the coronavirus outbreak, public health professionals and government authorities have advised people to exercise social distancing to slow down the spread of the virus and consequently save lives. But a lot of people are now wondering how they can access medical services when social distancing. The solution to this dilemma is telemedicine.


Telemedicine can be understood as the process of getting the services of a doctor remotely via the phone, text messages, or even video calls. According to Dr. Rahul Sharma, telemedicine offers an excellent opportunity for healthcare providers to do their part in helping the public minimize the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. For instance, with telemedicine, people with compromised immune systems, and those in quarantine can get the attention of a doctor without leaving their homes.


It is, therefore, not a surprise that several healthcare providers have reported a tremendous increase in the number of tele-visits in the last few weeks. For instance, compared to the previous six months, Multicare, the state of Washington’s leading community-based health system, has reported a 1300 percent increase in average daily tele-visits this month.


According to Dr. Finkelston, most visits have been about upper respiratory issues such as sinusitis, common cold, coughs, and fever. In other words, most patients who have been seeking medical attention through telemedicine in the recent past have symptoms similar to those that are associated with COVID-19.


But how reliable is telemedicine? Dr. Finkelston notes that teledoctors rely on a patient’s history to diagnose about 80 percent of the cases that they come across. Besides, teledoctors have the necessary experience and lots of medical tricks to understand their patient’s problems without necessarily having to see them in person. For instance, although it is not possible for them to remotely listen to a patient’s lungs, they can examine their respiratory patterns or even get them to take their heart rates. This can be quite helpful in ensuring that doctors get adequate patient information for them to offer the most appropriate medical advice.

Coronavirus, also COVID-19 (the respiratory diseases caused by the virus), has been threatening to be a global pandemic and already claimed an estimated 5,000 lives. With new reports of the illness surfacing in different places, many operations have come to a halt, including the suspension of public gatherings. As researchers search for a functional vaccine and treatment for affected patients, congress has been voting on funding Medicare waivers for telemedicine and telehealth services.

The HIMSS (Health Information and Management System Society) canceled their Florida conference last week as a precaution to avoid contracting the deadly virus. In this wake, telehealth lobbyists have spotted the opportunity to push its adoption, citing evidence from the epidemic as a sufficient sample of the value of telemedicine. Telemedicine has emerged as the most effective approach to avoid contact with coronavirus.

New Message for Patients

If you fear that you are infected with the coronavirus, doctors and nurses have a new message. Use the phone first. More doctors involved with coronavirus are steering patients, with mild to severe flu symptoms, towards non-contact telemedicine healthcare. This includes visits conducted via telephone, secure messaging or interactive videos, and web conferencing. The same healthcare system is deployed for providing care remotely to those infected or suspected to have COVID-19.

Telemedicine isn’t novel as it has long been used to expedite care during flu seasons. It allows caregivers to provide instructions and valuable information to affected patients remotely. This form of medical care also allows the doctor to monitor and track the progress of their patients. Besides ruling out contact with the virus, telemedicine reduces long queues at the facility and provides instant help through remote communication technologies.

But How Effective Is Telemedicine in Virus Management?

According to experts, COVID-19 is similar to influenza in its airborne transmission and symptoms manifestation. As such, the same methodologies are used when evaluating patients suspected to be infected. However, there are several challenges telemedicine faces, especially when it comes to organizing actual on-site treatment for patients in severe stages.

The Coronavirus and Telemedicine: A Viable Option

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread each day. As of today, the WHO (World Health Organization) estimates as many as 101,927 people are infected, and there have been numerous deaths. Telemedicine can be a valuable tool to utilize and help ease the possibility of catching the disease.

What is Telemedicine
You still see your regular doctor or an emergency physician. Instead of personal contact, the doctor sees patients via a computer using a program such as Skype, Zoom, or even FaceTime. According to Dr. Alexander Vo of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), University in Austin, Texas, describes it as direct-consumer technology in the medical field.

Telemedicine and CVID-19
The growing telemedicine services provide care to those who either can’t see a physician. It can also treat other illnesses by diagnosing them via a computer. It is ideal for patients only needing medication or those with mild symptoms of a cold or the flu. It can aid patients by avoiding contact with other people in clinical or hospital settings where contamination can occur.

Dr. Vo serves as the Vice President of Telemedicine and Health Innovations at UTMB. He stated that this method could help by slowing down the infection and could help stop the growth of this contagion. It will reduce the transmission of other diseases by lessening direct contact with others in a waiting room or hospital emergency room.

It is also useful for those exhibiting CVID-19 symptoms. Doctors and healthcare professionals can prescreen for Coronavirus using this growing technology. When a case is suspected, the clinician can arrange for those individuals to get tested in a safe and isolated situation.

Telemedicine helps reduce infections by limiting exposure to others. People need to take extra precautions when it comes to this virus. It can spread rapidly, infecting hundreds each day. One of the best ways to try to manage and cut down exposure is through this new technology.

Studies conducted at the CDC (Center for Disease Control) show that 85 percent of seniors aged 65 years or more have one of the everyday lifestyle or old age conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and arthritis – and this can mean high healthcare costs.


The struggle to deliver affordable and accessible health care to seniors may worsen instead of improving. A report released by the Population Reference Bureaus predicts a 75 percent jump in the number of American seniors in need of home-based nursing care by 2030. The same report indicates that the number of individuals aged 65 years and above will increase to 98 million people by 2060 from today’s 46 million – this is expected to strain the delivery of care to the elders.


Health practitioners are considering introducing telemedicine to bring healthcare to seniors and cut the cost.
Telemedicine is expected to address these challenges:

Older people struggle to show up for an appointment: Such conditions as Parkinson’s disease, mobility problems, and arthritis prevent seniors from traveling to seek medical care. Those without children or spouses can be isolated.

Care providers lack visibility: primary care providers are often uninformed of the seniors’ recent health history or need for new medications. The lack of clarity makes it challenging to deliver effective care.
Communities often don’t have on-site expertise: medically fragile seniors often find themselves living in communities without sufficient physicians who can avail care as quickly as possible.

The benefits of telemedicine to the healthcare of seniors can be put into four categories:
Disease management: Seniors with chronic conditions often worry that their days are numbered. With telemedicine, however, the management of these diseases becomes easier and adds more years to the seniors’ lives.

Convenience: Telemedicine removes the need to travel to health care centers or wait for physicians.

Fewer hospitalizations: Since telemedicine provides on-site care where the seniors are, there is no need to be hospitalized at a health care center.

Better visibility and coordination: With telemedicine, doctors will stay abreast of the senior’s changing medical conditions and respond to them in real-time.
Staying healthy at old age

Staying healthy at old age, as more American seniors get old, there is a need to cut improve access to care and cut the cost of care by rolling out large scale telemedicine. Telemedicine lets seniors live vibrant lives for longer.

As telemedicine develops and gains traction in healthcare, the specialty of cardiovascular care, in particular, is benefiting tremendously. Telecardiology aims to streamline the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease through real-time and remote technology. Innovations in cardiac rehab, cancer care, and pediatric cardiology not only benefit patients but help physicians to work more efficiently.


Cardiac rehab is a medically supervised program created to help patients recover and improve the quality of life following a heart attack, heart failure, or other heart problems. Compliance with cardiac rehab dramatically impacts the recovery and outcomes, but often patients struggle with attending appointments due to living in a rural area or requiring physical assistance. Telemedicine is gaining recognition in the ability to raise the compliance rates of patients undergoing cardiac rehab significantly. By removing the barriers patients face in transportation to and from appointments, telemedicine gives patients the ability to attend and complete their rehab from any location.


Cancer treatment can cause the development of various cardiac complications. For cancer patients who are fighting the disease, having to see a cardiologist can be very difficult. Patient evaluations often don’t require the full resources of a hospital and can be done in local clinics. Telemedicine gives cardiologists the ability to conduct thorough exams remotely, while nurses and medical assistants perform screening and diagnostic tasks. Patients only have to go to their local clinic or regional hospital.


In the scope of pediatric cardiology, videoconferencing technology helps reduce disturbances in the busy schedules of families, who don’t need to miss much work or school to attend virtual appointments. Students can conference with their physicians at school on break, while parents can participate in the meetings from work. An added benefit of videoconferencing over a simple phone call is the ability of the physician to pick up on facial expressions that can help them understand where the patient or the parent is confused, and direct discussion as such.

Due to the ongoing flu season, Ourdoctor recommends patients to stay at home.
Ourdoctor telemedicine system can be used by people with flu symptoms instead of one having to visit an emergency room or a doctor. Kyle Rao Ourdoctor CEO asserts that flu is a significant health problem since it spreads very fast. It is thus crucial to help prevent its spread, which is why they are advocating for minimal movement among patients.
According to Rao, the disease makes one quite uncomfortable, which is why it is vital to make patients feel comfortable besides helping curb its spread.


Ourdoctor conducts virtual visits for patients with life-threatening conditions. Ourdoctor services are available to any citizen above three years within the state. Further, one is not required to have been a regular patient to receive services.
According to Rao, flu is among the leading life-threatening conditions around this season.


During this season,
According to the Center for Disease Control, the flu season runs from October to May. Hospitals in Michigan have put in place measures to restrict visitors to help prevent the disease’s spread. There has been an increase in the use of virtual visits in the recent past as the technology becomes popular among the population.


Ourdoctor has gradually recorded an increase in usage, according to Rao. At present, the application receives patients every day with the last year.
Rao, asserts that during this flu season, close to 65 percent of virtual visits were related to flu. To learn more about Ourdoctor visit Ourdoctor.com

There has been a significant shift on what consumers expect from health care services in recent times. These days, consumers expect health care providers to meet not just the requirements but also go beyond to meet their emotional needs. Telemedicine has been a new concept, but in the world of the internet, it is developing with lightning speed.

So what is telemedicine? This phenomenon is the remote delivery of healthcare services — for example, health consultations and assessments, diagnosis, and patient treatment using standard technology such as smartphones. As the health industry seeks to provide efficient ways to deliver healthcare—at a lesser cost, telemedicine has been at the forefront in realizing this dream.

Leaders in health say that this consumerization of the treatment process has been most beneficial. However, putting healthcare tools in the hands of consumers requires more exceptional care and oversight for the best results.

Wellness Devices vs. Traditional Medical Devices

Traditional medical devices monitor, mitigate, and treat certain illnesses and conditions. On the other hand, a wellness device, for example, a smartwatch, can monitor health-related information and promote a general state of health. However, wellness devices do not treat or diagnose a condition.

Despite the notable differences, these two categories are coming closer to developments in technology. For example, an Apple watch can be used to track your heart rate while some models even support electrocardiography and also work together with a blood glucose monitor.

The production of medical devices has also shifted to making them consumer-friendly and easy to use at home. This feature enables non-practitioners to view the data while the practitioners interpret it, making diagnosis and treatment more comfortable.

The Future of Telemedicine

According to Grand View Research, the linked health and wellness devices market is anticipated to hit $612 billion by 2024. Meanwhile, according to MarketsAndMarkts, the wearable medical device market is also likely to see a surge with $14.4 billion by the year 2022. These figures are just a slight indication of the push towards in-home patient care, where with time, we might experience patients themselves using the formerly traditional medical devices.

Dr. Samir Qamar of MedWand believes that significant advancements are to be expected in the medical industry in general thanks to telemedicine. He goes on to say that the big problem over the years has been people interpreting the data they see. However, when you pair the consumerization of medical devices with medical interpretation, then there will be a success.

Wrapping Up

There are dangers associated with telemedicine, like the wrong interpretation of data and possible attacks by hackers. Despite this, the consumerization of healthcare is giving a more significant focus on patient experience. It is an excellent shift from the disease-oriented model we have today, to that which is patient-oriented. Any practitioner who approaches treatment from the patient’s perspective will have changed the game.

Students living in rural areas in Bledsoe and surrounding counties are getting free medical care services thanks to telehealth, through the Chattanooga-based Erlanger Health System.


Telehealth (also known as telemedicine) uses electronic information and telecommunication technologies to offer long-distance clinical health care. Telemedicine centers on populations that have barriers to health care, including rural communities, poverty-stricken regions, or homebound people. Telemedicine is sustained by grants, funds, and other donations from organizations, such as the Lyndhurst Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Chattanooga.


According to the National Association of School Nurses website, telehealth can significantly reduce the outbreak of infectious diseases, help manage chronic health conditions, and improve school attendance among students. Besides, it can enhance the work productivity of teachers, support staff, and parents.


Erlanger finances this effort at no cost to the schools in the region schools. It uses students’ health insurance to cover the cost of virtual visits—if a student has a health cover. Hence, the grant funds only include virtual appointments of students who are not covered. Erlanger also helps such students and their families to enroll in TennCare.


In August 2019, the program was implemented in five schools after the Bledsoe County School Board’s vote. From August 2019, 75 children, as well as faculty and staff members, have accessed medical care through telehealth.


Symptoms that warrant telemedicine includes sore throat, fever, and congestion. When a student has these symptoms, the school calls their parents or guardians to ask if they should use the service or take the student to their regular provider. Notably, some conditions, such as head and physical injuries, cuts that need stitching, complicated infections, serious illness, and traumatic injuries, cannot be treated through the program.


Trained nurses in communication with Erlanger nurse practitioners conduct visits, which happen within 10 to 15 minutes. An Erlanger nurse practitioner watches through a webcam as the student’s parent joins in through the phone.


As a result, most students are treated faster than they used to be returning to school quicker. They do not have to miss school when the condition is non-contagious. Also, studies show that more than 50% of teachers treated through telehealth have been able to resume work immediately. As a result, this program has also helped schools save much money on substitute teachers.