7 questions: Bayer’s Eugene Borukhovich

In the second of his series of articles with speakers at the upcoming Frontiers Health conference in Berlin, Marco Ricci speaks to global head of Digital Innovation at Bayer, Eugene Borukhovich.

Eugene Borukhovich
Where do you think technology is likely to make the biggest change to pharma?

I think it already is. New and novel ways of identifying new molecules or therapies, improving clinical trials, and how we communicate with our customers are just some small examples of a revolution that is taking over the industry.

What role will pharma play in the adoption of technologies in healthcare?

I think that the complexity and inefficiency of the health and care ecosystem means a lot of healthcare professionals are already adopting technologies. But, at the same time, while the world is focusing on new and shiny disruptive technologies, we sometimes forget about the customer experience. If we start with the healthcare consumer in mind, the gaps in their experience, how it can be improved, and what the key problem statements are, only then will we be able to see how and which technologies are here to enable a transformation.

What areas of pharma/healthcare are in need of digital disruption?

From my perspective, I think that every single part of ‘the system’ is ripe for disruption, from improving clinical trial design to assisted living arrangements for the elderly.

A lot of investors know this too. Coupled with the amount of healthcare spending worldwide – which is simply unsustainable – investors are seeing digital technologies as the solution. Hence the huge amount of venture money pouring into digital health start-ups.

What obstacles remain that are preventing faster uptake of disruptive technologies?

To me, a big obstacle is behaviour change and change management within companies. Many healthcare organisations are still home to outdated or guarded perspectives of the advantages that digital technologies can bring. Simply put, while everyone loves to innovate, most people don’t like change. As an industry, we need to proactively drive more open-mindedness with respect to digital, both in our own companies and among our customers.

Where has technology made the biggest impact in pharma/healthcare to date?

The ‘dot com’ era brought with it unprecedented access to patients and patient communities and in turn the valuable data they harboured. That access has not left, but has evolved into what we have now, which is a more real-time view of patient community values.

Telemedicine has also had a huge influence on rural and remote patient monitoring and engagement, helping industry work around tightening regulations and reimbursement needs.

How is Bayer using technology to improve healthcare?

As the whole industry is still trying to figure out new business models, Bayer has been focused on helping our business do things better. The team has been a solid bridge between the ecosystem innovators and a large organisation like our own. You will see examples of that in my presentation and the G4A start-ups at this year’s Frontiers Health!

Which technologies do you think have the most potential for improving healthcare?

The approach is less about technologies and more about what the big questions are that we need to answer. That said, one of the most promising technologies is artificial intelligence (AI). While the term was coined in 1956, the field has seen huge advances in underlying technologies, like natural language processing, over the years, particularly in the last decade or so. Taking natural language processing as an example, just look at the amount of valuable text that practitioners write and the structured data held in Electronic Medical Records that can now be processed by AI programmes. This kind of technology could help the industry dramatically.


Frontiers Health will take place in Berlin, Germany on 16-17 November 2017. Eugene Borukhovich will be delivering a keynote presentation on day one of the event. To find out more, click here.


Read previous interviews in the series: