Digital Therapeutics Edition
Digital Health Today 360°
Dan Kendall 0:04
Welcome back to Digital Health Today, the place to be to get the insights of leaders making the healthcare of tomorrow, available today. I’m your host, Dan Kendall.
Dan Kendall 0:12
In this episode, I have the pleasure of introducing you to one of the health sectors leading innovators and probably one of the best known – and dare I say it – most loved leaders I’ve had the pleasure of working with during my 20 plus years working in healthcare innovation. I see him blushing in the background as I read this. He’s a serial intra and entrepreneur, executive, venture builder, speaker, and board advisor with a focus on digital health. He’s also the chairman and founding board member at YourCoach.health and founder of Initium Impact Ventures. Prior to YourCoach, he served as Global Head of Digital Health at Bayer. And he’s also cofounded and sold a doctor rating startup in a consulting company. He’s now living in Barcelona, and he enjoys running, writing, traveling, and spending time with his family, and even trying his hand at his own paella recipe. It’s my pleasure to welcome my friend and probably yours too, Eugene Borukhovich. Eugene, welcome to the program.
Eugene Borukhovich 1:07
Wow, I am absolutely blushed right now. And by the way, before we go any further on record, it is not my recipe. So Marina my better half did most of the work, I did the eating. So.
Dan Kendall 1:22
And photography. I saw the photography on Instagram.
Eugene Borukhovich 1:24
And photography, of course. Need to capture a moment, otherwise, it just never happens. Right? So…
Dan Kendall 1:27
It’s 2020. So if you’re not taking pictures of your food by now, I don’t know what kind of luddite you might be.
Eugene Borukhovich 1:34
Dan Kendall 1:34
So Eugene, look, it’s really a pleasure to have you here on the program. You know, we’ve been friends for years now. You are one of the early supporters through your role at Bayer of the Digital Health Today program. You’re one of the early guests, as well. It’s really been a pleasure to get to know you and to work with you over all these years. And I know you’re doing some exciting things.
Dan Kendall 1:51
Let’s talk, first of all, about where you are now and what you’ve been doing during the pandemic. You are one of the many thousands of people who decided that they wanted to do a podcast, but one of the very few who actually started doing it. So tell me about what you’ve been up to over the past few months.
Eugene Borukhovich 2:07
Yeah, so we just got to Barcelona mid-October. But prior to that, around March, I went back to New Jersey for family reasons, and actually also a good friend, Jim Joyce kind of pulled me out a little bit out of the rut there and said, we’ve been talking about doing kind of shooting the shit at the bar. Let’s do this Shot of Digital Health Therapy, which is the podcast that you’re referring to. We started this videocast and then thanks to you converted it to a podcast version as well.
Eugene Borukhovich 2:35
We started honestly almost like a mental health solution for two extroverts, to just have a stage, we didn’t care how many followers we got, etc. But it just became fun doing it. At the same time, with Marina, we’ve been kind of hacking away at it. It’s great to be back into entrepreneurship world and getting stuff done every single day. So that’s been a fascinating journey building a company together with my better half.
Eugene Borukhovich 3:01
And in August, we finally closed the seed round of 1.3 mil, so just been building the team and growing that. With that, as much as I love, you know, being serious and building stuff, I think the shot of digital health gave us a little bit of an outlet as well. And then finally, not to pitch all these things, but these are all parts of different parts of my brain. So every Friday, I started writing a book, basically, a Hard Pill To Swallow. So it’s a little bit of a big corporate, how it works or doesn’t work, and how intra and entrepreneurs are solving these challenges every day inside the four walls and opening those walls up. All of that probably takes just a few hours, honestly, the creative part, and then 1,000% of it has been dedicated to working with my better half of Your Coach Health.
Dan Kendall 3:52
Excellent. So let’s work backwards through a few of those things. So Hard Pill To Swallow, I love getting those newsletters. We’re recording this today on a Friday. I look forward to getting that at some point today. They’re really entertaining. Your humor really shines through? How do people find that and how do they subscribe to that?
Eugene Borukhovich 4:06
So it’s Hard Pill To Swallow on Substack, so I think it’s hardpilltoswallow.substack.com. So as you can see, I don’t even know my URL. Right? So I just do it for fun…
Dan Kendall 4:17
I’m sure you can Google that, you’ll find it. Of course, we’ll have the link in the show notes for this episode, of course. But yeah, that’s a good one. So what is the plan then? To have these newsletters go out to give updates about the book that you’re writing?
Eugene Borukhovich 4:28
Yeah. So, you know, I think a lot of this, I’ve never written a book, I write tweets, and I’ve written blogs. Right? And so for me, it’s also a little bit about self-discovery, but also consistency. I think we all, especially as leaders need to continue building consistency. That’s what people expect, I think consistency, not necessarily right, wrong or indifferent. And so I’ve been forcing myself because I think in December, January, I wrote maybe, I don’t know, 15-20 pages, and then I started just putting ideas in.
Eugene Borukhovich 4:55
And so, by setting that expectation, I mean I have now something like almost I think 300 subscribers just out of nowhere. Right? And I know people are waiting for it on Friday. Right? And I enjoy doing it, I love getting the feedback and really thoughtful ideas and concepts and experiences back. So many people volunteered to kind of help me on that journey. Everything from well, how do you self-publish to what are the pros and cons, so from, I’ll say, the business perspective of it. And others just say, look, you know, this is my experience. Right? So I actually look more forward to the responses than me pressing the button on publishing it. Right?
Eugene Borukhovich 4:59
Well, I know we’re gonna talk, I really want to talk to you about what we’re doing together at Digital Health Today. But first, before we get into that, and the new project, another project that you’re adding into your weekly routine, let’s talk about the Shot of Digital Health. You’re on the third season of that I believe, people can find that on Health Podcast Network, they can find that on YouTube, they can find it on their favorite podcast players. What’s that experience been like getting started with a podcast?
Eugene Borukhovich 5:58
Yeah. So first of all, we were even trying to figure out what platform do we use to record. Right? I mean, and the point of all of this, or the Shot of Digital Health, we agreed with Jim in the beginning that this cannot become a headache. Right? And actually, his wife Emmy came up with the tagline, which is ‘Meticulously Unproduced’ after watching the first one that him and I just banter back and forth, without knowing where exactly we’re going with it.
Eugene Borukhovich 6:23
You know, I think, again, for us it’s, we always forget that in health and healthcare, for some reason people say, well, that can’t be fun. Right? And so again, what I mentioned earlier, it was very much of, let’s get us, as there’s a pandemic hit, let’s have a pandemic free space once a week. And therefore, part of the ‘rule’ – for lack of a better term – is that you shouldn’t say things like COVID, and pandemic and plague and Jim holds up the C-19 sign for any guest.
Eugene Borukhovich 6:54
And then, the second part to this is, there’s just amazing people, brilliant people all around the world. And so can we get them, just like we would at the bar? And many people we know, both of us know them, like yourself. You, I hope, had the pleasure of being on one. And then there’s others that I know people, but Jim does not, and vice versa, and actually, in a couple of weeks, we’re going to have a person on the show that neither one of us have met before. Right? So I think it’s exploring, it’s getting out in this virtual world, but still have that, for lack of a better term, almost like a physical connection, because our minds are connected in this discussion. It’s been really fascinating. And we’re in season four, by the way. Yeah, we just started season four, Jamie Edwards kicked us off.
Dan Kendall 7:37
Well, as much as I love watching it, it was even more fun to be a guest. I have to say, it was really great to spend time with you guys. It was like being at a bar with you folks, and just sort of hanging out, and suddenly, 30 minutes had flown by, and you were calling time on it, and so we’ve had to bring it to a close. But yeah, it’s a lot of fun, I encourage people to check it out. I guess I’m one episode behind. I saw Jamie Edwards on LinkedIn, but I didn’t realize that it was the beginning of season four.
So I have to catch up on that one.
Dan Kendall 8:02
So I skipped over the work that you’re doing at Your Coach and I just want to talk briefly about that because that’s a big opportunity. You just received some funding. You’ve been working hard, you and Marina trying to get that off the ground, and now you’re getting some real traction. I know this is just an area where the coaching industry has really taken off during this pandemic. So what are some of the things that are going on there? What are some of the things that you can point to over the past few months? And then what can we look at as we look into 2021?
Eugene Borukhovich 8:28
No, absolutely. So when Marina started the company, we sort of officially registered in January. But I think the most interesting part about this, there’s been the silver linings and tailwinds. Because I think people kind of thought about health and wellness coaching, as I kind of joke around, a cuckoo voodoo science. Right? And there’s always going to be some of that, but that doesn’t mean that placebo effect is not working. But there’s also science and behavior driven, and science backed approaches to health coaching.
Eugene Borukhovich 8:57
What our goals are, is quite heavy. Right? Because I think, as we know, the health care system is really under tremendous, tremendous pressure. You know, health coaches do have quite a lot of education behind them, and again – especially the National Board Certified health coaches – there’s a scientific and educational approach to this. So we started out as a practice management solution. Very much so. Still there as a practice management solution for health and wellness coaches to manage their business.
Eugene Borukhovich 9:28
As a young company and as a young startup, we’re constantly exploring revenue streams and models. The one thing we do know is that we’re going to continue providing this at no, or minimal cost to coaches. And actually, we’re going to start charging next year, early in the next year, but there’s a way for coaches to bring it down to almost zero, if not zero.
Eugene Borukhovich 9:50
But as we’re exploring the models, I mean, we’re talking about novel health services that are now employing health coaches, insurers that are now employing health coaches, lifestyle medicine practices, integrative nutrition. It goes broad the health and healthcare ecosystem. I think it brought to light that employees are humans too. Right? And so a lot of employers are now looking at it and say, how do we help not just to lose weight, but how do you help individuals in your company and the talents to really be the best version of themselves? Right? And we’re honestly exploring a lot of them.
Eugene Borukhovich 10:28
And then that brings us to also digital therapeutic companies that may or may not have services surrounding the actual digital therapeutic, and same discussions that were with a pill or with a medical device now with the software as a medical device. Again, back to the consistency word, how do you help these individuals to stay consistent on that digital therapy? How do you help them reach their goals? And guess what, who comes in for help? Health coaches. So hence, it’s been really a fascinating, amazing journey. Working with Marina building the team, we’re now at 14 people on the team spread all around the world, and I just, I love every moment, that’s what gets me up every single morning.
Dan Kendall 11:08
So you’ve been an intrapreneur, you’ve been an entrepreneur, you’re back now growing this new, exciting company in a very exciting time for healthcare. Because I mean, you started this in January, well, it was only a few months later that lockdowns began. And we’ve seen just rapid innovation and acceleration in the healthcare space. And while none of us wanted this pandemic to happen, and we certainly know a lot of people are suffering because of it, it’s certainly been an opportunity for those of us who have been saying on the sidelines, hey, give us a chance, let us show you what we can do, let us show you how we can make an impact in the healthcare system. Well, now suddenly, people can’t access care the way they’ve done previously, they can’t run businesses the way they’ve run previously. So they need to find new ways of working.
Dan Kendall 11:46
And this has been a big opportunity for us to come, those of us who have been working in this space, to come up off the bench and say, hey, we can solve this, we can be a part of this. And I’ve been really thrilled to see all the work that Jamie’s done. Jamie Edwards, you mentioned, at Cloudbreak. Roberto has been really doing a lot of work in Italy. I mean, lots of people have been stepping up to really showcase what has happened and what can happen with this new way of working. So hopefully, we’ll see a lot of this continue even post-pandemic, which hopefully we’ll be rounding the corner on that soon.
Dan Kendall 12:14
You mentioned digital therapeutics and that’s something that I know you’re very passionate about, something you have some experience with firsthand, you’ve worked for a pharma company, you’ve worked in digital innovation, you’re now working with the health coaching side, and the overlay and the overlap between digital health and digital therapeutics and the coaching, the personal, the caring team aspect of it. And you and I were talking earlier in the year about your interest in doing that, and the interest that I have with the Digital Health Today platform to bring more voices and bring more authentic, experienced voices to the Digital Health Today platform.
Dan Kendall 12:47
And I’m thrilled to announce to all the listeners that you’re actually creating a whole Digital Therapeutics Podcast Edition under the Digital Health Today umbrella. So it’s really going to be a great asset for the listeners to enjoy and a great platform for leaders to come on and share their expertise, and try to reach all the people who haven’t had exposure yet to digital therapeutics and what they can do. So let’s talk a little bit about your plans for that.
Dan Kendall 13:10
So you’re the star of the show, and you’re moving from your meticulously unproduced to, let’s just call it a slightly more produced platform. What are some of the things that you want to achieve through the Digital Therapeutics Edition of Digital Health Today? And what can listeners expect?
Eugene Borukhovich 13:24
Yeah, so I’ve been obviously intrigued. And one of the things that I’m a big believer in is that you need to be a practitioner in something, and I’m not a practitioner in digital therapeutics. Right? And so, while there’s a lot of people that come my way and say, well, you’re an expert in digital therapeutics. No, I’ve talked to many digital therapeutic companies, I’ve read a lot of proposals, I’ve read a lot of business plans, I’ve interacted, but I’ve never been a practitioner.
Eugene Borukhovich 13:49
And so I think to me, it’s always about the people that are on the ground, kind of paving the way and this goes across the entrepreneurs and trailblazers that have, the words didn’t even exist, or they existed separately digital and therapeutics. How do you combine just the two words to make an actual sub-industry out of this? This is across regulatory bodies. From FDA to EGA in Germany that everybody has been talking about. I think people forget that, UK and NICE has been doing quite a lot in that space also. Country that most people, especially Americans, don’t necessarily think about is Belgium. Right? And maybe they might know them for chocolates, but they’ve been also leading the way in some of this.
Eugene Borukhovich 14:33
And what got me curious a number of years ago, where yes, it intersected tightly with the work in a pharmaceutical company, where I always kind of challenged them. So digital therapeutics, can they stand on their own? Or do they need to continuously cuddle with the pharma industry? And what are the market access perspectives? So I’ll summarize it in, what is the history of it? What are the regulatory frameworks that are constantly evolving and being defined as we go along, as we learn more, as we get more clinical validation and data? How has this crisis…And this pandemic has caused that whole industry to just completely jump, probably, 10 years ahead, in my humble opinion, just from a data perspective. And then what are the stories?
Eugene Borukhovich 15:20
And not so much of the entrepreneurs themselves, because I think the people that we’ll have on this limited series, most people that have been listening to Digital Health Today probably have heard the names. You know, I’m going to take a completely different view on it, is what is the business of digital therapeutics, Right? What is the real impact to individuals and the patients? And honestly, what is the play on the consumer side of things as well. Right? Because I think people separate consumers and patients in the definition. And I actually love what Steve Seuntjens says, he never says a consumer or a patient, he says an individual, because every individual has its own ebbs and flows, etc. I’m looking forward to it.
Eugene Borukhovich 16:02
I think I’m pushing myself out of the comfort zone. Because yes, I think for those that know me, I can be serious, and I can kind of say this is what needs to be done. But I also enjoy the Shot of Digital Health and the meticulously unproduced, so this is going to be a new experience for myself. I think it’ll be a new experience for the guests just being with me for that hour or so. And I’m really looking forward to how and what comes out into 2021.
Dan Kendall 16:31
Brilliant. Well, you touched on a few things there. I mean, digital therapeutics have accelerated in some ways during this pandemic period. I know you’ve spoken with Megan Coder from DTA. There’s some great events that have been really pushing the whole industry forward in terms of, like, the DTx East and West and, and Europe and things. But I think a lot of that’s gone away, obviously, because of the lack of travel this year.
Dan Kendall 16:54
And one of the things I’ve been saying to people working in digital therapeutics for a long time is that the industry isn’t really, we can’t break these conversations up and just have them inside walled gardens where everybody already is converted and believes in the future of this. We need to take that conversation outside of the DTA, when you take it outside of the DTx meetings, and really reach people who are out there busy treating patients, or are concerned about their loved ones, and looking for solutions and trying to find better ways to serve people, themselves, their family, their patients.
Dan Kendall 17:26
And I think this is really important to create this as a little library of content that people can interact with, to be able to get that sort of insight. Because it might not be in their core lane that they’re traveling in, whether it’s in their personal life or in their professional life, but to get exposed to it and begin to realize some of the science of some of the technology, how that’s converging. Some of the things that I know Megan talked about, in terms of some of the convergence, and some of the science that’s really been proving itself out. And even the regulatory pathways that have opened up to allow approvals and reimbursement to business models around getting these things to market. You know, those things are really important for people to understand. And we need to reach them out where they’re living and working and spending time. Not just within our own environment of preaching to the converted about what these things can do. So I’m really thrilled that you’re doing it. You called it a limited series?
Eugene Borukhovich 18:14
No, let’s pause on the limited series for just one second. You know, I wanted to add, I think, as young companies, a lot of times you kind of try to go and make your own way. Right? And I’ve been saying cooperation is the new competition. So there’s actually quite a lot of things happening around how do you share that knowledge? And DTA is a key component of that and bringing some of these companies together.
Eugene Borukhovich 18:37
I wanted to also do a little bit of a shout out to Marty and team at Health Excel. I just participated, not on DTx one but in PBM model, and like I love these small, you know, it’s maybe 8 to 10 people, and so they will be having a DTx version of this, I think every month or so. I’m working even on this with Brian Dolan from Exits & Outcomes, because as you pointed out earlier, I’m kind of okay, well, let’s just shoot the shit a little bit and talk. I think Brian drives much more of a researcher approach, journalistic approach, to this. So I’ll be leaning on him heavily where he’s done the research. And a little bit of the hint, I think pretty much every episode, or at least every other will have a ‘Corner with Brian’, a question that is burning on his mind for that particular topic or speaker.
Eugene Borukhovich 19:27
So I guess the point that I was trying to make here is that cooperation is the new competition, in a way. And I think what this sub-industry needs for the sake of the patients and the consumers or individuals is more of that. Right? And so I’m also hoping that this will bring some of this together.
Dan Kendall 19:44
Yeah, 100%. And to your point about Health Excel, yeah, I had a chance with Steve Seuntjens to attend one of those events a few weeks ago, and it was really great. I mean, I love what they’re doing. Again, this pandemic sort of fostered new ways of thinking to create new solutions and they got about eight people together to talk about dermatology and various skin conditions really understand what doctors and nurses and patients are experiencing with that. So definitely do go over, if you haven’t already, subscribe to Health Excel, and get on their mailing list to find out about those, I’m sure you can find some links on our website as well.
Dan Kendall 20:16
And then Brian, we should definitely talk about Brian, because I’ve been a fan of his since he was the managing editor of MobiHealthNews back in what, 2008? or 07? Or something. It’s a long time. So to have the opportunity to get his sort of research-driven, journalistic, laser focus on some of these things to sort of cut through some of the BS and really understand well, this is what the industry is seeing, this is what you’re saying and what needs to be said and what research shows, I think, is a really important component of what you’re creating, and what we’re helping to create through your digital therapeutics series. So thanks for mentioning those points.
Dan Kendall 20:50
I know we’re almost at time, I know you got to get to another meeting. So why don’t just leave the visitors with a couple of thoughts about where they can connect with you personally? I know they can obviously find your podcast on digitalhealthtoday.com. But where else can they find you?
Eugene Borukhovich 21:03
I live on Twitter. So that’s probably the best way @HealthEugene, or just look my name up on LinkedIn. That’s probably the best way. I did want to also close off with your limited series concept.
Dan Kendall 21:15
Yes, let us talk about that real quickly. Yeah.
Eugene Borukhovich 21:17
You know, I honestly, as an entrepreneur being focused on Your Coach Health, I want to also make sure that there’s time for things. Right? And so I think part of that is, there’s a number of, I’ll say, players today. And I think part of that is I want to get through an interview as many as I can in that, but I also want to put a limit so I can switch my head over. Now by popular demand, if things are going well, and there’s lots of requests, who knows, maybe we’ll extend the limited series.
Dan Kendall 21:45
Well, that’s great. Yeah, I looked through the list of the people. We’ve talked about a few of the things that you want to cover and the storyline behind each as you sort of layer on the introduction to the industry. And I think people are going to be really pleased with the types of conversations that you’re leading, and the leaders that are actually coming on to give their time and help with the greater good to try to drive this whole industry forward to help people on the way.
So look for Eugene on Twitter.
Dan Kendall 22:09
Eugene, thanks so much for working with me. Thanks for helping to make all of this possible. Really appreciate you as a leader in the health industry and want to continue to see your success across all the different things that you’re putting your hands to.
Eugene Borukhovich 22:20
Thank you very much, Dan.