On October 5, 2021, Fishawack Health announced the appointment of Jonathan (Jon) Koch as its new CEO. Koch has spent his entire career in healthcare, including nearly 12 years at Covance (now Labcorp Drug Development), where he last served as Group President of Clinical Development and Commercialization services, leading more than 11,000 employees across dozens of countries. Most recently, he served as Senior Vice President and CEO of Global Dental at Henry Schein, where he was responsible for the strategic direction and business performance of its largest healthcare division and leading technology business.

PM360 spoke with Koch about his vision for the organization moving forward, what he can offer from his past experiences, what changes are most impacting how companies within healthcare and life sciences must operate, and much more.

PM360: As you take on this new role as CEO, what are your plans for the next phase of growth for Fishawack Health?

Jon Koch: Even after a very short time with the company, everything I thought coming into the organization is true. Fishawack Health has done a fantastic job organically building exceptional commercialization services and pairing those with strategic acquisitions that are complementary and innovative in nature.  The task now is to seamlessly integrate these companies. In many ways, integration is about winning “hearts and minds.” That means having one vision and culture, as well as unifying systems, processes, and ways of doing things.

As we look toward the future, our focus will be on establishing a vision that matches the healthcare industry’s future needs. The landscape is becoming more complex and competitive. Our biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical device clients will want access to a broader range of capabilities across the product lifecycle, spanning geographies, that will enable them to work with greater agility and better serve their stakeholders’ shifting requirements.

Another exceptionally important goal is to attract, develop, and retain colleagues in a way that sets the organization apart from others in our space and create a career “home of choice” for our teammates.

Lastly, we’ll be adding new capabilities, selectively, that reflect where we believe client needs will be not just for today but for one, two, and three years into the future. This would be the skeleton of the construct of our initial plan for the next phase of growth.

When it comes to creating a “home of choice,” do you have any specific plans of how to implement strategies that will improve the company culture? Anything you’ve learned from past roles?

We have an opportunity to implement something different. We have recently made several strategic acquisitions, so we know there are different lineages, different vines or roots. However, if you peel, maybe a few layers back, you find that the vision they started out with and the values that really helped craft the company are similar. What we can do, certainly over the coming months, is to draw those links together so everyone has a global vision for the organization centered on a purpose and founded on common values.

For example, while the company has evolved in many ways with new acquisitions, COVID has changed the working environment for all employees. It changed how we connect internally and externally. We can take that as an opportunity to refresh who we are and how we operate, as Fishawack Health, and create a culture that I think can be progressive and exciting for everyone, including our customers, going forward.

You mention how COVID is changing how companies operate. What have you seen to be a result of working in more remote settings rather than all together in an office?

Well, there are pros and cons. When it comes to chemistry or wanting to build chemistry, you just can’t do that remotely. However, I would say teams too often relied upon getting together in a physical setting to get certain things done.

To get the right people around the table, to make decisions, and enforce them across brand or client teams, we are now doing that virtually. No one has to wait several days to be in the same room together. They could meet the next afternoon. So, the pandemic allowed people to work with more agility and to move things forward faster. This move to hybrid working has always existed but it’s the norm now. We are adopting digital tools and approaches that make virtual collaboration even more powerful.

What are you doing differently in terms of reaching out to patients, doctors, payers, or whoever the client is trying to reach?

It’s not just about reaching out to stakeholders—it’s about truly understanding their needs so we can develop solutions that transform patients’ lives for the better. Across the different business units at Fishawack Health, we have a very rich history of insight generation and stakeholder engagement across numerous geographies and therapy areas, including mapping stakeholder journeys to uncover novel opportunities to reach all kinds of people. That approach did not change much during the pandemic. However, what has changed is our ability to leverage novel technology to make this process faster without losing rigor.

Our capabilities have grown significantly to incorporate more professionals who are skilled in data analytics and to include proprietary tools that leverage innovations like AI to ensure we’re engaging the right stakeholders at the right time, with communications that are right the first time. This is exemplified through the fantastic work our member company closerlook is doing to leverage AI to inform creative campaigns that more deeply understand and engage HCPs, and our market access consultancy PRMA Consulting’s technology that unlocks product value to better engage payers. These tools, combined with our rich knowledge, skills, and heritage in developing strategies, communications, and campaigns that truly get to the heart of stakeholders’ unmet needs, have ensured that we keep developing innovative and novel solutions for our clients that are a step ahead of the changing landscape.

What will you want to bring over from past roles or just things you would like to see done differently from what the industry has typically done?

First, I can help the organization understand how to build a customer-centric, people-centric company, and how those two things can co-exist. Ultimately, they are both driven by a passion for helping customers achieve successful outcomes. A lot of organizations struggle to be both, and from everything I’ve seen here, we can navigate that easily and be bold.

Second, as our customers increasingly engage with us, not just in one facet of our capabilities but across capabilities, there is a way we can approach integration—whether it be resource integration or full-service delivery—to fulfil our clients’ needs.

Third, we will work to embrace and onboard new capabilities that have been brought to us via acquisition without losing the unique facets of those organizations in the eyes of our customers. And as we see customers increasing their books of business with us, we need to make sure we have an organizational competency, process, and system that is designed to deliver our capabilities on scale consistently and in a high-quality fashion. I’ve helped organizations scale in this fashion, and that’s something that I believe I can bring to Fishawack Health.

Lastly, I can help teams and clients navigate their journey toward an increasingly digital data-and-analytics-enabled future. I think those are a few ways based on my experience that I can complement the expertise we have in the organization today in a way that benefits customers.

Is there anything you can share about the lessons you have learned in the past, in terms of being both customer- or patient-centric and integrating companies so they can keep they’re unique style while still working within a larger healthcare network?

Our business is a people-led business.  So, the starting point is improving the employee experience for all. One of the things that we’ll be doing across the organization is taking greater steps to harmonize positions in title and the way we categorize our resources. So, as we look across our information systems, seeking someone with a certain skill set and expertise at a certain level, we can see across the whole organization and tap into resources that may not have been as visible or as known by teams in different parts of the organization.

Second, creating career pathways so we can help people understand how they achieve more senior roles within the organization, and doing it in a way that matches our customer pipeline planning and future needs.

If we work closely with our customers, we will know future needs and the sequence of those needs. We can understand where doors or opportunities may open up and match them against aspirations from one or more of our team members. It’s just one of the ways to serve our customers better and at the same time serve our internal customers too. Those two things intersect to enhance retention and customer satisfaction.

We talked a lot about digital transformation and how that’s changing things. We’re also seeing in healthcare the rise of personalized medicine and more of a focus on rare diseases. How do you see that impacting marketing and how to better meet patients in those areas?

My background is from the clinical development phase where there was a tremendous amount of work involved with personalized medicine and rare disease. As you said, there are a host of implications for every facet of both development and commercialization. Both of those areas have a commonality, and that is, highly specific, often smaller patient populations. There are areas of high unmet need in the broader community, whether it be around diagnosis or treatment and the journey between. It’s far more complicated.

Additionally, there are litany of potential logistical obstacles that can come up when identifying patients or providing patients with access to therapies. Patients and physicians need to have greater hand holding, greater education, greater understanding, and greater support through the journey that they’re going through. We can think about these services in a historical perspective; that is, how do you take historical capabilities and apply them to those settings? Not every organization can do that.

If you think about it, you may need to develop a whole new suite of solutions and services relative to a particular rare disease or relative to personalized medicine that can help patients and practitioners navigate the treatment journey. That’s far more than just transactional work. It requires the right experts, the right expertise, and the right experience.

Another challenge is strategy, targeting the right patient populations and services specific to their needs, especially in underserved or minority populations. We’re seeing more clients develop strategies that are designed to build trust in underrepresented communities where particular diseases are more prevalent and not well understood.

Aside from the rise of personalized medicine and of the digital transformation, are there any other trends in healthcare marketing that you think are going to have a big impact on the industry in the next few years?

Another facet of digital or technology is machine learning. It’s evolutionary—even revolutionary. It’s the concept of artificial intelligence and how that translates from research and development through to commercialization. How bioscience is combining computing and automation to develop new products, even in the commercial space. How do we take those tools and data that spun from them and apply them in the commercialization phases?

Just think about next-level process automation and virtualization and what that holds in terms of assessing data, understanding it, and then acting upon it. How will it support the development of products from a device perspective and technologies that are not used around those spaces in healthcare? Fishawack Health have the commercialization, device, and technology experience to guide customers to being successful with those products and to leverage the full strength of an omnichannel approach.

Given all of these changes we discussed and the things you would like to accomplish, what are your most immediate short-term goals for the company? Is there anything you specifically would like to say you accomplished after three months, six months, or a year?

An exceedingly wise leader once told me to listen first, so I’m doing a lot of listening. For the first 90 days, I plan to observe, listen, and learn a lot, then maybe more practically, we’re going to solidify our executive and senior leadership teams. The vast majority of those colleagues are already in the organization. It’s just identifying the individuals and other groups of leaders within the company. The second thing I will do is establish our vision for the next three to five years and define very specific strategies needed to bring that vision to life.

Then we’ll develop detailed operating plans for 2022 and beyond. It’s important to say that as we’re doing all of that, I’m very cognizant that we meet the needs and expectations of our team members and our clients. So, no matter what we do, it will not distract from those commitments. I think the future for Fishawack Health is tremendously exciting. It’s not without hard work, but we are all very motivated about the prospects and potential of the organization.

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