The 2019 DOJ Guidance Document: A Baseline for Life Sciences Compliance Training

Sean Murphy
Product and Marketing Manager

One of the significant events of 2019 affecting life sciences compliance was the April release of a new guidance document, Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs, (https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/page/file/937501/download) by the criminal division of the Department of Justice (DOJ).  The primary intent of the document is to guide prosecutors and courts as they evaluate corporate compliance programs, but it also serves as an important baseline for life sciences businesses evaluating all areas of their compliance programs, including the training curricula.

The guidance document highlights three questions for prosecutors to consider when evaluating a program:

  1. Is the corporation’s compliance program well designed?
  2. Is the program being applied in good faith?
  3. Does the corporation’s compliance program work in practice?

In this post, I examine the DOJ’s document in more detail, and discuss its implications for your compliance training curriculum.

Risk-Based Training

In reference to a “well-designed compliance program,” the DOJ stresses the need for prosecutors to focus on whether a company’s program is customized for the particular risk profile of that company. According to the guidance, prosecutors should “understand the company’s business from a commercial perspective, how the company has identified, assessed, and defined its risk profile, and the degree to which the program devotes appropriate scrutiny and resources to the spectrum of risk.” The company’s periodic training and certification should include all “directors, officers, relevant employees, and, where appropriate, agents and business partners.” In addition, training should be tailored to “audience size, sophistication, or subject matter expertise.”

In pursuit of these standards, foundational training is an effective method for providing a baseline, but additional risk-focused content continuously delivered to individual business units is one way to address that risk. As an example, scenario-based mini modules covering the topics highlighted in risk assessments and audits of the compliance hotline should follow the more comprehensive foundational training for each business unit to make it more relevant and engaging. In addition, microlearning nuggets in the form of quizzes, assessments, and contests have been proven to drive higher retention rates when delivered strategically across a learner’s calendar. Targeted, continuous learning covering the topics deemed critical to each business unit is the key to truly reducing risk.

Curriculum Analysis

On the topic of risk-based training, the DOJ recommends prosecutors ask, “What analysis has the company undertaken to determine who should be trained and on what subjects?” In line with that suggestion, a compliance curriculum analysis is a critical first step for any compliance professional interested in understanding the details of existing organizational training and it’s a necessary starting point for the reconfiguration of that curriculum to effectively address the risks. The categories covered in the analysis should include:

  • Training Type (eLearning, Live, Webinar)
  • Topic(s) Covered
  • Level of Training (Awareness, Detailed, General, etc.)
  • Length
  • Audience(s)
  • Risk Rating Per Audience (Low, Medium, High)

An instructional design analysis should also be included to determine if the proper learning objectives are established and followed, and the visuals, audio, navigation, and assessment are optimized for learning. The data should then be curated into a spreadsheet with sortable cells and columns to allow for an organized and multi-level review of all training programs and topics. At PharmaCertify, we use our Compliance Curriculum Analysis Tool, or CCAT, to assist our clients with this analysis. Once the CCAT is complete, we summarize to highlight the strengths, gaps, and redundancies in the overall curriculum.

Test and Test Again

The document also delves into the measurement of training effectiveness by encouraging prosecutors to ask if employees have been tested on what they learned and how the company has addressed employees who fail all or a portion of the testing. While the inclusion of standard assessments with each course is an assumed necessity, using assessments as learning tools has been shown to strengthen long-term memory.

A study by Jeffrey D. Karpicke and Henry Roediger III, of the Department of Psychology at Washington University revealed that learners are poor judges of what they remember, and when given the choice, they stop studying before they have mastered the subject. So even when they think they know it, they don’t, and assessments spaced repeatedly over time is the best method to increase the retention of critical compliance policies and best practices. When possible, alternative types of tests should also be deployed, including:

  • Pre- and post-training tests to measure gains scores
  • Priming assessments to encourage the formation of cognitive schema
  • Diagnostic assessments to help target remediation
  • Cumulative exams to encourage information retrieval and re-encoding

Effective Implementation, Review, and Revision

Finally, prosecutors are asked to consider whether a compliance program is a “paper program, or one implemented, reviewed, and revised, as appropriate in an effective manner.” This holds true not just for the program in general, but for the compliance training curriculum. Just as the corporation should “provide for a staff sufficient to audit, document, and analyze the results of the efforts,” the proper resources and time need to be dedicated to the evaluation of the current curriculum, with subsequent modifications conducted accordingly.

The DOJ’s Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs document refers to a compliance program’s capacity to evolve as a hallmark of its effectiveness. That evolution is necessary because “a company’s business changes over time, as do the environments in which it operates, the nature of its customers, the laws that govern its actions, and the applicable industry standards.” An effective life sciences compliance training curriculum must align the current business with the environment, customers, and laws, and now is the time to bring all of those components together.

I hope the insights above are helpful as you continue to improve your compliance training effectiveness throughout 2020. Thanks for reading!

 

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