Lessons Learned at the 19th Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress

Lesson 1: Rules and principles can coexist.

Welcome to the first in a multi-part series based on lessons learned from the recent Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress in Washington D.C. Our goal in this series is to share best practices and tips for strengthening your compliance culture and reducing risk based on the themes and best practices heard during the three-day conference and provide suggestions on implementing those concepts from a training perspective. We begin this week with a twist on a topic that has been on the agenda for a few years now…rules vs. principles.

During the Compliance Considerations for Small to Mid-Size Pharma and Device Companies panel presentation, a team of industry compliance officers and consultants discussed the challenges and opportunities brought on by limited resources and personnel. The suggestions were varied and intriguing, but one stood apart for me, especially from a training perspective. When he was offering the details of how he approached his transition to a small company compliance department, one chief compliance officer said, “it’s important to start with foundation training, and then have a conversation about culture.” In the milieu of conversation about the importance of principles, and the need for “an ethical approach to decision making,” it was refreshing to hear acknowledgement that rules-based and principles-focused approaches can co-exist and work in conjunction.

Foundational training lays the groundwork for the rules and policies that are critical for all life sciences employees to understand and incorporate into their daily activities. Although the “check the box” approach to training has been much maligned in recent years, being able to document that your staff, especially those who interact with healthcare professionals on a regular basis, have successfully completed training in topics such as HIPAA, on-label promotion, the False Claims Act, and the Anti-Kickback Statute, is a critical first step. Once that foundation is established, on-going opportunities and touchpoints can be utilized to establish the “why” behind the decisions as you strive to strengthen the culture across the organization.  As was emphasized during the presentation, you need to “have a plan that builds across all work streams” to do that throughout the year. As one example, workshops with interactive activities that immerse employees in ethical scenarios are an effective method for reinforcing the principles. In addition, assessments, microlearning, and games deployed across an employee’s timeline remind learners that compliance isn’t just about rules and regulations, it’s about “doing the right thing, for the right reason.”

During the Chief Compliance Officer Roundtable at the conference, one participant made the point that “a principle-based philosophy helps ensure compliance throughout the company and not just at the surface level.” That’s certainly true, but from our perspective, a principle philosophy is more effective when its built on a solid foundation of policy and rules-based training.

Thanks for reading!

Sean D. Murphy
Editor
Compliance Training Intelligence Blog

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