Myth #2: It’s Not Really Targeted to the Life Sciences Industry
In this installment of our series on the myths and realities associated with off-the-shelf compliance training, I cover the common concern that off-the-shelf compliance and ethics training is not effective because it is so rarely focused on the life sciences and the only way to get targeted training is to build from the ground up.
All too often, life sciences companies purchase off-the-compliance training designed with generic content that is somehow intended to be applicable to any industry. This especially holds true when training is sold under the banner of ethics training. After all, ethics is ethics, no matter the industry…at least that is the sales pitch from companies who sell generic compliance training.
Unfortunately, the aggressive marketing and sales efforts of those companies perpetuate the myth among many life science companies that custom-development is the only training option that will meet their needs. Unknowing compliance professionals think they have only two bad options: 1) purchase generic training, or 2) hire a generalist training developer to build expensive modules from scratch, with the added burden of having to provide subject matter expertise to the training developer (As if they don’t have enough to do already!). There is a better approach, one that can be both efficient and cost-effective.
Those pedaling generic compliance training may insist otherwise, but effective life sciences compliance training absolutely requires content targeted to the pharmaceutical or medical device industries. The intricacies and details of the risks in our industry are far too unique to expect learners to find real value in generic training. But that doesn’t mean the only path to quality training is through custom development. Off-the-shelf training, with content developed by industry experts and vetted by your peers in the industry, is readily available for customization and launch.
Our Compliance Foundations™ eLearning modules cover the topics those working in the life sciences industry need to effectively reduce the risk inherent to their job responsibilities. Off-the-shelf courses include Good Promotional Practices; Interactions with Healthcare Professionals; Healthcare Compliance Overview; On-label Promotion; and Managing Speaker Program Risk to name a few. The modules are designed for easy customization, so your language, policies, and practices are easily woven into the content. And our modules can be launched on any SCORM-compliance learning management system…either the one you have in place or our cost-effective LMS.
The Bottom Line
There is a better way. You don’t deserve to have to settle for generic compliance training. You can have off-the-shelf content that is specifically targeted to the risks in our industry and the ability to further customize the training specifically to your company. You also don’t need to always build from scratch to ensure the content is relevant and optimized for the risks your learners face every day as they interact with healthcare professionals and conduct their work-related activities.
But don’t just take my word for it when you can see for yourself. Follow the four steps below to access demos of the Compliance Foundations™, and see first-hand, the level of industry focus we bring to our modules.
Myth #1: Off-the-Shelf Training Doesn’t Align with My Content Requirements
Welcome to the first installment of our series on the myths and realities associated with off-the-shelf compliance training. In each post, we will dive into one commonly heard myth concerning the pros and cons of using off-the-shelf eLearning to reduce compliance risk in the life sciences industry. We begin this week with the frequent lament, “off-the-shelf training doesn’t align with my content requirements.”
Multiple presenters at the 2019 Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress emphasized the importance of targeting training to the audience. As one speaker said, “scientists are not going find value in training that features scenarios with sales representatives.” He ended his comments by saying that is why he only uses custom-developed training.
In addition, in its recently updated guidance on the evaluation of corporate compliance programs, the Department of Justice emphasizes the need for “appropriately tailored training and communications.” When describing what prosecutors should take into consideration when evaluating a company’s program, the DOJ asks, “has the company provided tailored training for high-risk and control employees, including training that addresses risk in the area where the misconduct occurred?”
Clearly, government regulators and industry leaders recognize the importance of targeting training to the roles and risks associated with individual learner groups. And the belief that only fully-custom training can meet those requirements is predictable and understandable.
But is it reality?
The Case for Off-the-Shelf
While I agree wholeheartedly about the need to target the audience and use role-appropriate content, well-designed off-the-shelf training allows for extensive customization, in a streamlined, cost-efficient manner.
Consider Healthcare Compliance Overview, a module from our library of Compliance Foundations eLearning courses. The module covers a broad range of commercial compliance topics, including the False Claims Act, off-label promotion, HIPAA, good product promotion, and the Anti-Kickback Statute so our clients typically launch it to their full staffs. Most of our clients customize the content to reflect the needs of specific learner groups, e.g. sales, medical, clinical, and corporate. Since the modules are built in a “templated” format, the process is simplified and the cost is less than custom-developed training.
Healthcare Compliance Overview features knowledge checks instructionally designed to reinforce key objectives throughout the module. The knowledge checks are often written in the form of scenarios that reflect “real-life” experiences some learner groups are likely to face in their daily activities. Since the modules are so easy to customize, our clients roll out multiple “versions” of the module, each one tailored to the appropriate audience. The result: highly professional and engaging customized compliance training at less cost than custom training.
The Bottom Line
Custom development certainly offers the opportunity to tailor compliance training to various learner groups within a life sciences company, but it comes with a steep price and lengthy development timeline. Delivering appropriately targeted off-the-shelf compliance training throughout the company is not only possible, but it is often the optimal solution based on budget and time frame. Just be sure the off-the-shelf training offers the right level of flexibility.
Launching off-the-shelf compliance training, customized for your learners, is a simple four-step process with PharmaCertify:
Review your risks and goals with our team.
Select from our Compliance Foundations curriculum.
Make our content your content through the customization process.
“There is only one rule for being a good talker – learn to listen.”
The importance of effective communication and more specifically, listening, wasn’t lost on the speakers at the 19th Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress. The consequences of poor listening were summarized by one panelist on the Qui Tam Roundtable when she said, “the vast majority of whistleblowers who contact me have tried to report their concerns to the company, but the company didn’t want to hear it.” In an era when the nuances of an effective compliance program are discussed and debated in detail, the simple yet often lost art of effective listening needs to be a priority.
The value of listening extends across all departments and business units and it starts with field-based employees. A presenter in the Compliance Considerations for Small to Mid-Size Companies session echoed that sentiment, saying, “the stream of questions from the field is not going to stop, but those questions tell a story and you need to monitor them carefully and build your plan from there.” The data from those responsible for interacting with healthcare professionals is critical as you evolve your program and look for gaps and redundancies that need to be addressed in personal interactions and in your continuous training curriculum. And listening for that data begins with open, non-judgmental relationships across the company. Or, as another presenter in the Compliance Considerations for Small to Mid-Size Companies session stated it, “when employees interact with the compliance department, they should not feel like they are being judged.”
The need for open lines of communication doesn’t stop with the field. The industry trend toward “building a culture of ethics and compliance,” and frankly, the regulatory focus on the culpability of those in the C-Suite and boards of directors, more than ever, dictates the need for open and regular communication with company leadership. The proverbial “seat at the table” for Compliance extends upward in the organization. As was stated during the AUSA Roundtable, “Compliance should have a good relationship with the Chief Executive Officer, and the officers of the company. The two departments need to communicate openly and honestly.” He continued, “when issues do arise, the Department of Justice needs to see that you are being proactive and responding to those issues.” In other words, listening to one and another.
During the Chief Compliance Officer Roundtable, the risks associated with the use of third-party vendors was discussed in detail and the need for open lines of communication beyond the walls of the company was stressed. “Work with the stakeholders in the third party and make them feel like you are partnering with them,” one participant said, “be transparent, if you hear that people aren’t disclosing information, that’s a warning sign. If there is any confusion, ask questions.” And listen carefully to the answers.
The key takeaway: to build a truly effective and modern compliance program that proactively addresses the risks across the organization, a policy of open communication must be established from the top down. The concept of an ethics-based approach to compliance may seem nebulous and difficult to quantify, but it begins with fostering a level of respect across the company. And respect begins with real listening. When employee questions, feedback, concern, and complaints are welcomed, appreciated and nurtured in a respectful manner by Compliance and the C-Suite, all aspects of the compliance program, including the training, are enhanced.
The French journalist and novelist, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, is credited with coining the phrase, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” For anyone who has attended multiple compliance conferences in the last five years, his words certainly ring true. Terms like “partnering with the business,” “tone from the top,” and “third-party risks” are still staples during conference presentations and this year’s Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress was no exception. For good reason.
As an example, the Compliance 3.0 presentation on Day 2 of the conference began with one panelist expressing his concern that “we still have to fight for a seat at the table.” In other words, while the concept has been bandied about for years now, the reality is that raising compliance to the organizational level of respect it requires to affect true behavior change is still a struggle. He and his co-presenters emphasized the need to not only find that seat alongside the businesses but truly understand their business policies as well as what they do and who they are. As another presenter put it, “bring value to the business as a compliance representative, educate them every step of the way, and help them educate their people.” She added, “when they get to the point where they are doing it themselves, that’s nirvana.”
Not surprisingly, the need to train and manage third-party vendors continues to be stressed. In the session covering the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, one government representative even delved into the need to extend the corporation’s culture to the vendors. She added “you really need to know your third-party vendors and they need to understand you. You need to know who it is that is making payments on your behalf.” The presenters in the Third-Party Lifecycle Management session agreed, citing the need to “have vendors take the same training that is rolled out for your employees. Treat them as partners and make sure they understand the risks involved. They are more likely to care about being compliant if they feel like a partner and if they will be held responsible.”
As with the conversation and debate over an “ethics-based approach to compliance,” concepts like “tone from the top,” “partnering with the business,” and “third-party risks” warrant our focus and consideration simply because they are that relevant and critical. Industry conferences offer the valuable opportunity to hear our peers share their latest insights and success stories around the themes that seem to drive the conversation. While the world of life sciences compliance is evolving, in some cases, the more things change, the more they stay the same…at least at the compliance conferences.
Thanks for reading!
Compliance Training Intelligence Blog
To say the audience at the 19th Life Sciences Compliance Congress West was energized and engaged is an understatement. The size and scope of the two-day conference led to unusually interactive discussions, with the audience eagerly sharing their experiences along with the presenters and panelists. For someone relatively new to the field of life sciences compliance training, I found the exchange of ideas and advice quite educational and enlightening.
PharmaCertify was there as a conference sponsor and we found an agenda filled with information designed to help attendees strengthen their compliance cultures and reduce risk, which of course is a mission close to our hearts from a compliance training standpoint. Here are my takeaways, with a focus on training of course (it’s what we do):
1. Build an ethical culture, not just a compliant one.
This was a recurring theme, and it’s a compelling one. On the surface, the line between ethics and compliance may appear inconsequential and not significant enough to be worthy of consideration. But more companies are evolving away from a rules-based approach to compliance to one that stresses ethical decision making as the foundation for their principle-based policies. It begins with a question: are people doing the right thing when no one is looking?
For us, the answer begins with a new approach to training. Modern life sciences companies need to teach the value of ethical decision making, and not just recite the rules and regulations. Training needs to instill in learners the understanding that the company trusts and expects them to do just that.
2. Hubs are in, so get that training out!
Patient support hubs are trending, and since they serve as the “connection point” for so many stakeholders (patients, providers, and physicians), they come with a high level of risk. With the influence of commercialized companies, and the lack of guidance from the Office of Inspector General and Department of Justice, patient support hubs are a hot bed of kickback and false claims risks.
Job aids, clear business rules and program guidance, and a robust training curriculum are necessary to mitigate that risk. All parties involved, including vendors, must be continuously trained on how to interact with patients and understand what they can or cannot say and do.
3. If you think PSPs and PAPs are in the regulatory spotlight, you’re right.
The scrutiny on Patient Support Programs (PSPs) and Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) is intensifying, with a growing number of settlements (Jazz Pharmaceuticals, United Therapeutics) raising questions over the idea of companies donating to independent charities. In addition to causing potential false claims and HIPAA violations, the donations raise concerns that they may be intended to induce patients to purchase certain products and implicate the Anti-Kickback Statute.
As was highlighted during the conference, PSPs and PAPs can be beneficial to patients, but commercial organizations cannot have any influence on the support being provided. Training needs to emphasize that sales representatives are not permitted to discuss specific PAPs or disease state funds with patients or healthcare professionals. And as prescription costs climb, the scrutiny and risks will continue to grow.
4. Nurse Educators: Are they here to stay?
The jury is still out. As defined during the presentation on nurse educators, “white coat marketing” refers to the use of healthcare professionals in marketing or sales activity, and therein lies the risk with the use of nurse educators. According to the Office of Inspector General (OIG), the practice is scrutinized under the Anti-Kickback Statute because patients rely on the advice of physicians, they may “have difficulty distinguishing between medical advice and a commercial sales pitch.”
Recently unsealed qui tam cases highlight the risks and cause for concern, with one company deploying “nurse ambassadors” directly to patients’ homes and another implementing nurse-led adherence programs designed to increase product refills. Patients tend to trust the opinion and advice of their physician, and by extension, their nurse educator. However, it can be confusing for a patient to decipher advice from marketing, and exposure points emerge when nurse educators are trained similarly to sales representatives and conducting calls with those representatives. Asking yourself key questions about the training:
What materials do the nurse educators use (disease state, promotional, fair, balanced, etc.)?
Does the training focus on adherence and education instead of sales and marketing?
Does the training resemble sales training (e.g., overcoming objections, cold calling)?
5. Speaker Programs: How is this still happening?
The idea that speaker programs bring high levels of risk is not a secret, so much so that one audience member even asked, “how is this (insert expletive) still happening?” Good question. Selling in the life sciences industry is a relationship-based activity, and back in the “good old days,” there was little monitoring around meals, vacations, golf outings, etc. Now, the risks are rampant and include speaker selection (make sure they are credible), payments, receipts, the amount of money spent, spouses or guests in attendance, and analytics. The panelists also used Insys as a case study for the importance of communication, particularly email. Multiple documented emails within the company revealed how they were trying to utilize speakers. Training needs to emphasize the need for open, honest and communication, with no hidden agendas because as was quoted about the Insys case, “it takes a very long time to turn your ship around.”
6. Calibrate Your Compliance Training for Greater Impact
There’s plenty of guidance available from the DOJ and OIG to assist ethics and compliance professionals with determining their training priorities. The OIG guidance alone offers 49 distinct metrics for communication, education, and training. It can be a bit overwhelming, so what’s a compliance officer to do?
A presentation by Dan O’Connor of NXLevel and Jeremy Lutsky of Theravance offered attendees a practical framework for designing, developing, and implementing compliance training, beginning with the questions, “Is there a training need?” In other words, is there actually a knowledge and/or skill deficit or is there a problem with incentives, motivation, unclear expectations, etc.?
Assuming there is a training need, ethics and compliance officers can use the long-established ADDIE (Analysis-Design-Development-Implementation-Evaluation) process to efficiently attack the problem, beginning with analyzing risk by role in the organization. Several pragmatic approaches were shared by Dan and Jeremy, including use of the “3F” Curriculum Framework, Bloom’s Taxonomy, and a structured process for evaluating existing training.
7. The food choices in San Francisco are, well, pretty good.
The restaurant choices are clearly bountiful in the City by the Bay and we leave you today with a brief note on two that we enjoyed during our stay:
The Hog Island Oyster Company is nestled in the Ferry Building Marketplace, where you can watch the ferries come and go as you enjoy freshly-shucked oysters on the half shell. Choose oysters from various locations or order a dozen or two to try them all! They all come with a fresh vinaigrette or cocktail sauce if you so desire. While their main stake is oysters, the rest of the menu is not neglected. The chowder comes stacked with clams in a nice cream base with veggies, potatoes, bacon and cheese! And the fish sliders are perfectly crispy paired with a tangy coleslaw that compliments the fish nicely. From the bar, the Chardonnay from Napa was crisp and light, and the Wolfback Ridge IPA was a perfect pairing for the fish sliders.
The Douglas Room is a quaint restaurant located adjacent to the Tilden Hotel that offers a boutique gastropub vibe to transport diners to another time (think speakeasy era). The talented mixologists curate creative spins on classic martinis behind the bar to help authenticate the experience. For dinner or late-night snacks, the innovative menu features locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. We enjoyed the shishito peppers, duck confit wings, wedge salad, and Tilden burger. The portions were perfect for sharing, and the presentation was stunning. We’ll be back when the conference returns to San Francisco!
With government investigators rigorously examining Open Payments, and on the hunt for red flags, the need for effective tracking and reporting training is more important than ever. Here are ten tips to help you build and deploy transparency training that reduces risk across your organization.
Make sure your employees understand that transparency covers multiple countries, not just the U.S. Global companies need to think beyond the Sunshine Act and include the relevant codes and laws from around the world. Don’t forget to incorporate requirements from codes like the EFPIA Disclosure Code and the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct, and regulations like Loi Bertrand (French Sunshine Act).
Keep the reports formal.
Stress the importance of using legal names of healthcare professionals for reporting purposes. Even if an HCP is commonly known as Bob, his license probably reads as Robert. Only legal names should be used. Warn the learners about facility names as well. For example, Saint Joseph’s Hospital for Children might be commonly known as Saint Joe’s, but the full name needs to be used in the reports.
Add in reference resources.
When developing training, include resources for learners to use on an on-going basis. Infographics or quick reference materials are good options for learners to self-check information they may have forgotten after they completed the training.
Emphasize that ALL HCP spend needs to be tracked.
Spend reporting requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A cup of coffee may or may not be reportable, depending on the circumstances. Learners should understand that accuracy is important for HCP spend, regardless of amount or spend type.
Don’t forget the T&E process.
The details of the travel and expense system are critical. Make sure learners know how to properly record HCP spend in your company’s system. For example, some systems (e.g., Concur) differentiate between a “business guest” and an “HCP guest.” Attributing the spending to the correct category in the system is a time-saving step that helps ensure accurate data.
Include examples of data entry errors.
Some data entry errors are common, and so are the instructions for correcting them. Identify the common errors in your system and highlight them in the training so learners recognize them during the actual data entry process.
Include a section on HCP interactions.
Healthcare professionals are aware of the buzz around transparency and privacy. They’re bound to have questions. Instruct sales representatives on how to answer their questions and address their concerns.
Review the rules on speaker programs.
HCP consultants who serve as speakers on behalf of the company need to make the audience aware that they are being paid by the company. Also, sign-in sheets are necessary to accurately record attendance and account for every physician in attendance.
Make it easy to report errors.
Include information about the process learners should use, including contact information, when they find errors (misspellings, incorrect state license number, incorrect address, etc.) in the training. Make that information available as a resource they can use later.
It’s all about accuracy.
No matter the format (live, eLearning, WebEx, etc.), make sure the need for accurate reporting is a recurring theme throughout the training. Take the time to identify and fully understand where errors typically occur in the process and build that information into the follow up training in the form of scenarios and stories. Long live accuracy…king of the content.
Last week, we sponsored Q1 Production’s 3rd Annual Life Science Compliance Training Conference, where a highly-energized group of compliance training leaders from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries shared their ideas and techniques for making compliance training more engaging, creative and effective.
Here are my key takeaways from two great days of presentations and spirited conversation:
1. Less is more.
The idea of shorter, higher-impact training was reiterated throughout the conference and was a common theme across the presentations. One presenter said her company now limits all compliance training to 15 minutes and another said her company “hasn’t rolled out training longer than 15 minutes in two years.”
2. Remember the tone from the middle.
While “tone from the top” has been a point of emphasis in the industry for a long time, “tone from the middle” was cited as a key in multiple sessions in Chicago. “The immediate manager has to understand the message,” one presenter said, “that is who the people in the field are going to hear the message from.”
3. Communication is training too.
As one presenter put it, “anytime we can connect with an employee with something they can takeaway, it’s training.” Companies are using a variety of methods to make that connection, ranging from quick reminders via email, to video clips, resource websites, and graphic comic novels. Think outside the box and look for continuous touch points.
4. Tell a good story.
Research shows that well written stories improve learning and increase retention of critical compliance content and policies. The quality of the writing is the key. Once you find a good writer, have him or her create a story arc and develop a narrative. To save on budget in the production, use illustration instead of video. It’s less complex. The quality of the writing is as important, if not more important, than the nature of the medium.
5. Measure the metrics.
Data is important and even the “soft” metrics like feedback from the learners and the managers, testing results, changes in audit data, and increases in hotline reports, are important when identifying what curriculum adjustments are necessary. Data is important, so much so that one presenter noted that she recently hired a “data analytics person” to see what else they can learn.
6. The principles-based approach to compliance is here to stay.
The principles-based approach to compliance was introduced years ago and it has clearly become a trend in the life science industry. Multiple presenters discussed the need to empower personnel with the ability to make decisions, rather than just training on the rules. As one presenter put it, “let them make their decisions about what is the right thing to do, and let them know where to get the answers if they are uncomfortable making the decisions.”
7. GXP compliance training requires a different approach.
This one was a surprise and was raised in response to questions from the audience. Several presenters noted that they are also responsible for GXP compliance training and the nature of the content and the expectations of the learners require a much more traditional approach to training. Essentially, a rules-based approach is much more necessary when dealing with manufacturing compliance.
8. Create a brand.
To quote one presenter, “companies spend millions of dollars branding products, so why not brand compliance training?” Branding gives you more opportunities to creatively communicate the key concepts and messaging. Brand the policies and the principles to create a coordinated and clear message.
9. One size does not fit all.
When developing compliance training, keep the learner’s application of the content in mind. In other words, make it relevant to the learners. Use scenarios that reflect risks they are likely to encounter. As one presenter stated, “training needs to be risk-based, and you need to train on the topics that are core to your business.”
10. Relationships count.
Getting stakeholder buy in on the training at every stage (development/delivery/completion) is critical. Don’t just focus on the proverbial seat at the table with upper management, develop relationships across the company, and seek feedback from the business groups, sales managers, and sales training.
11. And finally, beware of the speaker programs!
When evaluating risks, make those speaker programs a priority.
Kudos to Q1 productions, the presenters, and everyone involved in the 3rd Annual Life Science Compliance Training Conference. From the opening audience ice-breaker, to the closing session, it was one of the most informative, focused, and engaging conferences I have attended in ten years of working in life science compliance.
I look forward to next year’s conference and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in sharing ideas and hearing what others in the industry are doing to make their curricula more engaging and more effective.
Thanks for reading!
Product and Marketing Manager
PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions