Dear Connie the Compliance Training Director Returns!

Great news! Connie the Compliance Training Director has emerged from her self-imposed quarantine and returned to the North American Headquarters of PharmaCertify. For her first post-pandemic post, Connie answers a question about the appropriate compliance training mix for product launch…

Dear Connie,

Connie the Compliance Training Director

I’ve read the recent post on this blog about the formula for a better compliance training curriculum, and I completely agree with the rationale for a combination of foundational training, reinforcement, and performance support. I am a compliance officer for a pharmaceutical company in the Northeast and my company is rapidly approaching our PDUFA date (fingers crossed) for a new product.

We’ll soon be hiring a new field team that is highly experienced in the industry. Do you have suggestions for the tools to use along each step of the continuous training rollout? I want to make sure I get this right, so that we have a successful launch while being sure our team stays compliant.


Skittish in Schenectady

Dear Skittish,

I understand your concern! Product launch is a time fraught with compliance risk. Whether this is your company’s first product, or one of many, the risk of not fully preparing a new sales team can keep you up at night. But as opposed to being skittish about this, I dare say you should view a product launch as a terrific opportunity to ramp up the compliance knowledge in the company and build your reputation as a compliance training hero! Here’s how:

Build a Solid Foundation

From a foundational standpoint, I suggest you start with training on interactions with health care professionals to refresh the reps on topics such as the rules around gifts, meals, and consulting arrangements. If you’re doing speaker programs, you’ll also want to cover guidance around those on a comprehensive level. Enforcement around the programs continues to be a focus, with the most recent settlement costing the company $900 million in settlements…yikes! And don’t forget to include your policy on virtual meetings now that they’ve become more commonplace. (By the way, my friends at PharmaCertify have added Managing Speaker Program Risk to their list of customizable off-the-shelf eLearning modules. It’s worth a look, so email them at to see a demo.)

Launch Screen from the Compliance Foundations Module, Interactions with Healthcare Professionals

Make sure regulations, such as the Anti-Kickback Statute and False Claims Act, are covered in general terms and in context of what they mean for the reps as they interact with HCPs. You could even shape some of the foundational training around the tenets of the PhRMA Code – it’s always a reliable starting point.

You might also think about converting your code of conduct from a static document you hope they read now and then, to a learning tool that reminds them of the core tenets of how they are expected to conduct themselves. And rote repetition of the code in electronic form does not rise to the level of effective training. A well-designed and fresh course will help familiarize the new reps with specifics of your code. (FYI – the PharmaCertify team has lots of fun ideas for how to bring your Code to life!)

One final note on foundational training: the rest of your staff (i.e., your non-commercial employees) need a basic understanding of the health care compliance principles that govern how you do business, so they will need training, too. In this time of increasing enforcement, you need to be able to demonstrate that everyone in your company has received essential compliance training.

Reinforce and Refresh

The possibilities for on-going refresher training don’t stop at the code of conduct though. Consider integrating microlearning modules (PharmaCertify calls them QuickTakes) covering topics pulled from your larger training programs into a curriculum campaign. For example, since gifts and meals present a high level of risk, a five-minute module focused on items of minimal value, cash and cash equivalents, as well as in-office meals, out-of-office meals, and meals at third-party events, is a great way to keep the rules top of mind.

Also, too many people fall into the trap of thinking microlearning just means “short.” My buddies at PharmaCertify take a different view. They define microlearning as any training component designed to reinforce foundational training as part of a continuous learning plan. The formats could include live-action or animated video, workshops, and game-based training, and even strategically delivered quizzes and assessments. The idea is to keep the training nuggets flowing for higher risk areas, which increases retention and enhances learning.

On the live training front, think about games to ramp up learning. If you’ve ever been in front of a group of reps playing any game, you know how they like to compete! As Gordon Gecko said in the movie, Wall Street, “Competition is good.” I know, he really said “Greed is good,” but I got your attention with that one, didn’t I?

This is JEOPARDY! In fact, it’s the only officially licensed JEOPARDY game on the market.

Look for games that have a familiarity to them. A Jeopardy game is great and if you’re interested, I can get you a demo for the only officially licensed compliance Jeopardy game on the market. It’s also easy to customize, so you can add the categories and topics you need to reinforce.

You can take the event to another level by pitting regional teams against each other and adding music, sound effects, and prizes to the mix. If done right, the games will have the participants saying, “that was the best compliance training event I ever attended!” Trust me, I’ve heard it.

There is a trend toward more creative live and virtual compliance workshops, and in my opinion, it is long overdue. Simply having a representative from the compliance department speak to a PowerPoint deck might not cut it in the view of regulatory bodies, and it certainly is not going to accomplish any worthwhile learning objectives.

An image from the virtual Compliance Escape Room Workshop

I even saw a virtual escape room utilized during one recent workshop. In this case, participants solved clues about three scenarios as they competed in teams to “escape” the rooms. It was a big hit at the national sales meeting and won a gold award for Best Advance in Compliance Training from the prestigious Brandon Hall organization.   

Support Their Performance

If there’s one element of the formula for effective compliance training that is most neglected, it’s performance support. Throughout my career in compliance training, I have too often seen training viewed through a myopic lens that is only focused on foundational training and occasional reinforcement. Performance support tools broaden the scope of your training campaign and provide just-in-time guidance.

Support materials can be as varied as interactive PDFs launched on the learning management system, animated video played through the corporate intranet, or an interactive microsite for sharing policy and code information. In addition, tip sheets and reminders about best practices and policies can also be sent directly to reps’ phones or iPads to support them with the information they need in the field.   


I wish you well with your efforts and good luck with that PDUFA date! Product launch may, at first glance, be nerve-racking from a compliance standpoint, but when you take the time to analyze your current training against your risk, then develop a continuous curriculum to be delivered across your reps’ timelines, you’ll be surprised at how seamless it can be. Just keep that formula for an effective curriculum (foundational + reinforcement + performance support) at the forefront of your planning and I guarantee you’ll sleep much better at night.

Soar high, you hero of compliance training!

Thanks for your question,

Connie the Compliance Training Director     

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