Although Informa’s virtual 2021 Compliance Congress for Specialty Products was targeted to those companies that focus on rare and orphan diseases, many of the key messages shared by the panel of industry professionals and regulators were applicable to compliance professionals from companies of all shapes and sizes.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the three-day conference, with my thoughts on what those messages mean for your compliance training program:
To say the pandemic has changed the way life sciences conducts business may be cliché, but based on the presentations in this conference as well as the Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress in April, at least some of those changes are here to stay. Change begats an increased volume of risk, and in the opening session, Keeping Up with Industry Trends — Top Compliance Concerns Facing CCOs, presenters emphasized the need for risk assessments now more than ever.
1. The current pace of change highlights the importance of risk assessment.
You need to take the same approach with your training curriculum. What are the key risk areas based on your company’s products? How often are the topics relevant to your product covered in live and online training? Are key areas addressed with reinforcement and just-in-time training? We call this process the Compliance Curriculum Analysis Process (CCAP). In fact, I wrote about how the process can improve outcomes for the publication, Life Science Compliance Update, back in 2017. Thanks to the pandemic, and increased governmental scrutiny, it’s even more relevant today.
2. Choose the right company when making a career move.
While most presentations in compliance conferences are focused on the best practices and concepts necessary to optimize a program, hearing one of the presenters stress the need to be aware of culture before joining a company was refreshing and enlightening. As the presenter pointed out, you cannot be shy about exploring whether the company makes compliance meaningful and if compliance is valued – before you accept a job offer.
Don’t forget to explore their approach to training as well. Are they regularly rolling out the kind of creative training and microlearning that helps flatten the “forgetting curve” my colleague Dan O’Connor, Erica Powers of Sage Therapeutics, and Karen Snyder of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals addressed in the Optimize Your Compliance Training: A Practical Approach to the DOJ’s Guidance session? (By the way, you really should see the slides from that presentation and the examples of fun an innovative training your peers are using to help reduce risk. Drop me an email at email@example.com if you’re interested.)
3. Equip leaders with consistent and proper messaging.
In a twist on the familiar “tone-from-top” mantra, another presenter in the opening CCO session stressed the need for the compliance department to take the lead in providing leadership with the proper messaging needed to reinforce that tone. As he said, “consistency is key as you cascade communication across your program.” It applies to training as well. Not only does the C-Suite need to be trained in the same concepts and policies as employees, they, and the management team, need to be repeatedly reminded of the need for a seamless message. As we’ve been told in just about every conference over the last five years, you need to earn a “seat at the table” with leadership. Once you’re in that proverbial seat, helping them espouse the messaging necessary to keep your program consistent is the key to keeping it meaningful.
4. Don’t decline meetings during the pandemic.
During the Compliance During a Pandemic session, presenters spoke at length about the importance of open lines of communication and the need to make every attempt to meet with business colleagues whenever possible. The businesses and field employees need to know you are accessible when they have questions. As another presenter chimed in, “you need to constantly make sure they know who to go to.” That concept extends to your training curriculum. Does your training include surveys and other feedback mechanisms? Do you encourage outreach in your eLearning? Creating and nurturing an open dialogue can only make your training more effective, during the pandemic and beyond.
5. If you’re going to have live speaker programs, you need to be wary of red flags.
That’s according to one presenter during the prosecutors’ presentation on high-priority risk areas. As he put it, the very fact that HHS even issued the Special Fraud Alert on Speaker Programs should be interpreted as a warning. While multiple presenters in other sessions suggested their companies will move to hybrid models with virtual and live programs, the opinions of the prosecutors were clear: expect the OIG’s focus to be on the live versions.
Managing Speaker Program Risk is one of the newly updated Compliance Foundations eLearning modules available from PharmaCertify. It covers the critical content your reps need to understand to remain in compliance, and like all our modules, it’s easily customized with your policies and content! Contact me to see a demo.
6. Not every patient advocacy organization is the size of the American Diabetes Association.
Day 2 kicked off with the Optimize and Mitigate Risk within Patient Interactions and Support Programs. Presenters noted the trickiness in dealing with advocacy groups in particular – not all the groups will be large and experienced enough to understand the potential pitfalls of compliance. You may need to educate them on the guidelines and principles, and that can be a challenge, especially on the delivery front since outside learners often don’t have access to your internal learning management system.
PharmaCertify can help with the Access LMS platform. Access LMS is a cloud-based, affordable alternative for reaching outside vendors and organizations with your compliance training. It’s simple, it’s easy-to-use, and it won’t break your budget. Contact my colleague, Dan O’Connor, at firstname.lastname@example.org to see a demo.
7. Dig deep into the weeds with MSL/commercial training.
The relationship between the medical and commercial divisions is nuanced and fraught with risk. During the Compliant Frameworks for Medical Affairs and Commercial Interactions session, a presenter whose company recently launched its first product reinforced the need for detail. While medical/commercial interactions have always been a pain point for her, she clarifies gray areas on topics such as “the rules for visiting HCPs together,” with what she calls “ways of working documents that clarify what each group can do and why.
At PharmaCertify, we take the same approach with our MSLs and Sales Reps: Understanding the Divide Compliance Foundations module. The content is designed to cover each role in a manner that helps reps and MSLs understand their own rules as well as those of the other group. I’d be happy to send you a content outline.
8. Follow the money. The prosecutors are.
It’s no secret that the government is scouring Open Payments data. And they are following the trail of money flowing to HCPs. During the enforcement panel, one prosecutor bluntly stated, “if you pay a provider hundreds of thousands of dollars, we are going to be looking at it.”
Reps need to consistently be reminded of HCP spend limits and incorporating microlearning components like on-going assessments and quizzes into your curriculum is key to ensuring those numbers are top of mind. We’d welcome the opportunity to show you how it works.
Kudos to Informa and all presenters for putting forth a valuable and important learning experience despite the challenges that always accompany a virtual event. The pandemic has changed the way in which we share ideas, best practices, and personal experiences as much as it has changed the industry in general. As the world inches back to a more “normal” approach to information sharing, I anxiously await the day when we can again meet in person in a conference exhibit hall and exchange ideas for how you can reduce risk and build a stronger ethical culture through training.
Thanks for reading!
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