Part 3: Compliance Training in An Uncertain Time
This is the third and final post in a series covering the compliance training lessons learned at the 2020 Virtual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress. Throughout the conference, regulators and industry professionals stressed the need for constant evaluation and modification of all aspects of a compliance program, including the training program. The successful mitigation of risk in a program requires continual careful documentation and evaluation of training topics, audiences, and deployment frequency, as well as the effectiveness of the tools utilized to deploy the training.
To say 2020 has been an eventful and tumultuous year for the life sciences industry is an understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced sudden change in the way in which business is conducted and created a milieu of unforeseen compliance concerns. Those issues were certainly not lost on the presenters at the 2020 Virtual Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress as timely suggestions for managing the “new normal” were blended with more traditional content related to building and managing an effective compliance program. One presenter summarized it interestingly when she said, “the plan you prepared in January does not make sense with what you need to focus on now.”
The need for on-going risk assessment was repeated throughout the conference, beginning in the Enforcement Docket Deep Dive session with one U.S. Attorney commenting, “programs must be updated over time to align with changes in the business and changes in settlements.” That risk assessment includes the on-going analysis and evaluation of a training curriculum, particularly as the way in which the industry interacts with each other and with HCPs continues to evolve.
A Rush to Roll Out New Training
The rush to cover new topics based on updated policies for virtual interactions can lead to a convoluted curriculum and do more harm than good. Regularly scheduled, comprehensive curriculum analysis helps ensure ongoing training covers existing and new topics with the right audiences, at the right level of detail, with the proper frequency based on the level of risk – and that analysis should not be pushed aside solely for the sake of expediency.
A “risk level” analysis has always been a foundational step in identifying content gaps and the need for updates in the topics covered. 2020 is no exception as the pandemic has forced a change in the way field teams interact with HCPs and conduct support programs. During the session, Look at How In-House Legal and Compliance Departments are Evolving in 2020 to Help Address Business Challenges, one compliance officer succinctly put it, “The way in which we do business has changed, so policies need to be more precise and training must be more engaging.”
Curriculum analysis begins with documenting a detailed list of topics covered in current training materials versus those required by the shift to virtual engagements. (Incidentally, PhRMA’s Statement on Application of PhRMA Code Section 2 During Emergency Periods is a good starting point for those changes). Your documentation should specifically include the target audience for each topic and indicate the level of risk each topic represents for each audience, as well as the frequency and level of detail at which each topic is presented.
Following the documentation phase, an analysis is necessary to determine whether the level of training versus the risk for the audience is sufficient. As a final step, solutions to address gaps and redundancies can be planned as new topics are added to the curriculum.
Increasing Retention and Enhancing Learning
An effective training curriculum also requires ongoing “engagement evaluation” to ensure learning is maximized. Let’s face it, the sudden onslaught of new and updated policies on virtual interactions is causing confusion. During the Candid Conversations on Key Themes and Industry Insights session of the conference, more than one panelist cited the movement to virtual programs as the topic keeping them up at night. The variables abound, and just updating foundational training programs with new policies is risky and flawed. More novel methods of training (quizzes, gamification, microlearning, etc.) offer opportunities to integrate nuggets of information into the curriculum and cut through the clutter of change to help raise engagement levels.
One industry speaker highlighted this best when he said, “You need to give them the tools to deal with awkward situations in this new way of conducting business, like how to respond to off-label questions.” That tool list begins with updated training components deployed repeatedly and strategically across the learner’s timeline. The changes wrought by COVID-19 only heighten the need to evaluate your curriculum for its power to change individual behavior – especially with updates to policies and changes in SOPs happening at such an unforeseen rate.
The unknown can be daunting. The writer and poet Raheel Farooq once wrote, “The greatest fear in life is not of death, but unsolicited change.” We, as an industry, a country, and a world, have certainly seen our share of unsolicited change this year and it wasn’t lost on the presenters at this year’s conference. Panelists were quick to admit they didn’t have all the answers in terms of how training, and compliance in general, should be managed in these tumultuous times, but that’s okay. I’m confident most attendees would agree that the opportunity to share concerns, questions, and ideas was worthwhile, valuable, and reassuring. Kudos to all the presenters and conference organizers for making the 2020 Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress such a success under such difficult circumstances. I look forward to attending the 2021 conference “live and in-person,” as I am sure do you.
Thanks for reading!
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