A New Year, a New and Improved Compliance Training Curriculum

Welcome to 2022 and a brave, new (and hopefully more effective) world in life sciences compliance training! Over the last two years, the industry has had to navigate the convergence of new and important regulatory documents (DOJ’s Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs, OIG’s Serious Fraud Alert on Speaker Programs), as well as updates to leading industry guidance (PhRMA Code, AdvaMed Code). Mix in a series of corporate integrity agreements and settlements focused on key topics, along with a global pandemic, and you have a perfect recipe for a shift in how risk is evaluated and remediated.

So, what’s the appropriate method for recalibrating your compliance training curriculum in response to these events and forces? The solution is as easy as A, B, C, and D:  

Assess Your Company’s Compliance Training Curriculum

Regular risk assessment is a long-time best practice for building and maintaining effective compliance programs. It’s nothing new, and as usual, the major conferences from Informa and PCF in 2021 included multiple sessions where risk assessment was a major topic of discussion. But this time, the regulatory guidance and industry code updates added a sense of urgency to the importance of this best practice.

The Compliance Curriculum Analysis Tool

But what good is a risk assessment if you don’t then assess your training curriculum against that risk? When we work with clients, we evaluate where they are in the product development process, and what training they’re already delivering on which topics, in what form, and at what frequency. It is often a revealing process, identifying gaps and redundancies in topics, and when and how the information is covered.

Good news! It doesn’t have to be a complicated process. Using tools like our Compliance Curriculum Analysis Tool (CCAT) can help.  And it can also be as straightforward as evaluating compliance risk for the product you are about to launch and establishing a baseline of online foundational curriculum around topics like HIPAA and Interactions with HCPs. No matter where you are in the product development cycle, know your risk levels as they relate to topics and audiences. Then look for opportunities to effectively address those risks in your curriculum with a continuous stream of foundational and reinforcement training.

Blend the Formats

The 2022 PhRMA Code Changes QuickTake eLearning Module

The days of using one large PowerPoint deck to train on all things compliance during onboarding sessions are long gone. Good riddance. Effective, well-designed training covering critical topics like bribery, kickbacks, HCP interactions, and speaker programs is readily available.

But the curriculum all stakeholders now expect doesn’t stop at eLearning modules covering foundational topics. You should also plan reinforcement training to help ensure that proper behaviors are integrated into your learners’ daily practices.

If your risk assessments show speaker programs to be a big risk area, don’t count on that one eLearning module or live training session to quell that risk. Why not launch a mini module specifically covering the selection and training of speakers? We call them QuickTakes. In fact, today’s development tools allow for smaller, more focused sections to efficiently and cost effectively be pulled from the larger modules.

Virtual workshops and games can be utilized to train on topics best discussed in live environments, where follow-up discussions and dialogue strengthen the core lessons. For example, if your assessments identify off-label promotion as high risk due to the nature of your company’s products, design a “compliance mystery” workshop, with scenarios replicating real-life environments sales representative can expect to experience in the field.

Compliance JEOPARDY!

Or, ramp up the competition and raise the level of learning with an online or virtual game like our Compliance JEOPARDY!, which is currently the only officially-licensed Jeopardy game on the market.

Finally, does your curriculum include performance support and just-in-time tools to help guide the learners before and after training events? Print and digital support materials can be designed in conjunction with the training and delivered to learners where they need it most – at their fingertips in the field.

A blended curriculum is not only the best approach for “making the learning stick,” it’s what the government, the industry, and perhaps most importantly, your audiences, now expect.

Communicate Across the Company

I admit that every time I heard the phrase “tone from the top” over the last ten years, I found myself wondering why the same topic was covered ad nauseum and seemingly at every conference. Then, a variation on that mantra started to seep into the presentations: “tone from the middle.” The reality is that key messages and lessons in compliance are delivered from the middle, more specifically, managers. And bringing those managers into the communication process helps ensure those in the field are reminded of the importance of compliance every day. It’s why presenters at conferences constantly stress the need to “partner with the business” and why compliance needs to be integrated throughout the company.

Speaking of communication, what does your plan look like? If you don’t have one, you should. Digital banners, animated video, and posters help reinforce the themes related to training and carry the messages across the company. For example, a QuickTake module covering kickbacks can easily be exported into a video for hosting on the company’s intranet. Or consider the approach we’ve taken with a number of clients to portray the compliance department in a more approachable light and produce lighthearted videos showcasing the risks involved in engaging with your company’s HCP partners.

Deliver It Continuously

One of my previous blog articles asked what a 170-year-old German psychologist had to do with compliance training and learning. The answer then, and even more so now considering the forces at work in the industry, is “everything.” Hermann Ebbinghaus is credited with theorizing fundamentals of human learning, including the learning curve, the spacing effect, and the forgetting curve. The forgetting curve essentially states that what humans remember after a learning event drops steeply after the completion of that event.

Continuous delivery helps reset the forgetting curve.

What Ebbinghaus theorized is interwoven into the government documents and settlements we’ve witnessed in recent years: “one and done” just doesn’t cut it. Unless you are taking a continuous approach to the delivery of your company’s compliance training components, you’re probably not taking every step possible to maximize the learning.

Are you deploying training nuggets across the learners’ timelines? Does your training plan include ongoing assessments and quizzes to help flatten that forgetting curve and increase knowledge retention? Are you asking for feedback from the learners on the quality of the training materials and adjusting accordingly? Have you explored available platforms for repurposing and sharing your training content?

In the DOJ’s guidance, the agency noted that some “companies have invested in shorter, more targeted training sessions to enable employees to identify and raise issues to appropriate compliance, internal audit, or other risk management functions.” The possibilities for doing that extend well beyond the creation of shorter eLearning modules. The availability of video, animation, podcasts, quizzes, and games, as well the delivery platforms necessary to continuously deliver those components, all create the opportunity to envelop learners in a framework of minimized risk.

Summary

The advent of new regulatory guidance documents and revised industry codes, as well as the implementation of recent industry settlements, affect the way risk is evaluated and judged in the life sciences industry.

We may be facing an onslaught of requirements and regulatory expectations during a time when the norms of business have been disrupted and disorganized, but using the instructional techniques and concepts outlined above, you have the opportunity to not only navigate your way through those changing expectations, but to elevate your compliance training curriculum to one that helps you rest easier on those waves of change.  

Thank you for reading! As always, my colleagues and I at PharmaCertify welcome the chance to discuss the compliance training challenges you may be facing.

Sean Murphy
PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions
smurphy@nxlevelsolutions.com

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