Welcome to the second post reflecting on the 23rd Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Ethics and Compliance Congress. In each post, I review some of the key topics covered during the conference and provide my reactions, as well as related tips and suggestions for maximizing the effectiveness of your compliance training curriculum.
This time around I delve into the ever popular (and somewhat confusing) topic of social media and, in particular, the session titled, MINI SUMMIT 5: Social Media — Auditing and Monitoring to Promote Compliance in this Rapidly Evolving Landscape.
If you attended the conference and missed this session, it’s worth the time to watch it online. And don’t be fooled by the title, the discussion wasn’t limited to auditing and monitoring. Training was mentioned early and often. Here are some of the key ideas shared during the session:
Follow the FDA (and the FTC)
The tone of the presentation, as well as the industry’s attitude towards social media, was best summarized with this quote from one speaker, “In some respects social media is heavily regulated, and … it’s the wild, wild west.” The rules and regulations are evolving and still somewhat undefined, but the risks continue to grow.
The presenters emphasized that the FDA’s regulations related to product promotion also apply to social media (staying on-label, not making unsubstantiated claims, avoiding promotional claims without risk information, etc.). The FTC has also issued a series of guidance documents on social media. Subsequently, the social media ground rules and principles established by both agencies need to be incorporated into your curriculum. Employing a continuous learning approach, with reinforcement solutions and performance tools blended into your plan, is the most effective way to ensure your team remembers and applies those rules and principles.
For example, you could deploy a foundational training module that covers your social media policy and then later follow up with a scenario-based microlearning module that specifically focuses on the proper way to respond when encountering product misinformation online. In terms of performance support, intranet banners and strategically placed posters are also a great way to consistently reinforce important tips and reminders.
Influencing the Influencers
The FTC’s guidance documents also cover the increasing use of social media influencers. According to the presenters, the FTC is particularly focused on “establishing a connection between the advertising and the influencer.” The agency has even established a preferred list of hashtags to help influencers identify themselves as paid spokespersons (#sponsored, #ad, #paid).
What does it mean for your social media training? You need to consider external as well as internal audiences, including any potential influencers involved in the promotion of your products on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. Who is training your influencers? How often do they receive training? What form of training do they receive? How is it being tracked? You’ll sleep better if you have deployed on-going training that emphasizes compliant behavior to those in a position to influence the promotion of your products.
The Same Rules Apply to MSLs, Executives, and Outside Agencies, Too
The presenters often cited the distinction between promotional social media posts and those related to corporate communications. Each type follows a different set of rules. This difference does not depend on one’s job role, but rather the nature of the post itself. Whether an individual is part of the medical team, the C-suite, or even with an outside agency, that does not give them carte blanche to post content without regard to the rules.
Once again, it is important to evaluate your training audiences inside and outside your organization. What are the risks? Do the same risks apply across the board? Should all topics be covered at the same frequency? Are you making any risky assumptions based on job titles? Such audience/risk analysis is the starting point for effective social media training and a compliance training curriculum in general.
The More Examples, the Better
One of the more interesting comments in the session centered on the potential risks of training itself. One presenter said, “We did so much training, it actually scared the staff.” She continued by saying the training they deployed was generic in nature and lacked the specificity and examples necessary to make it stick. In her company’s case, they made the training more effective by adding examples of what employees can and can’t like or share. That’s an excellent idea that could be further enhanced by examining the training deployment calendar.
For instance, you could create a “training series” in which the foundational training establishes the “what” and “why” of your social media policy, and follow-up with microlearning, games, mini assessments and other learning nuggets that focus on specific social media examples. When training is spaced across a learner’s timeline, learning has been scientifically proven to increase and the retention of those examples will grow.
In addition, workshops and training games offer more opportunities to reinforce the good and bad of social media activity. When deployed live or virtually, the sessions foster a dialogue in which examples can be discussed and participants can cite their own examples of what they have seen online.
At the start of this mini summit, presenters referred to a quote by the former director of the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion, Tom Abrams, “It’s the message and not the medium, so we expect the same regulations to apply to social media…” Platforms will change and evolve, but the messages your learners post, like, or share need to adhere to the good foundational compliance practices the government, HCPs, and patients expect.
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to see examples of foundational or reinforcement training solutions to address the risks of tricky subjects such as social media, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to speak to one of our compliance training specialists.
Sean Murphy Product and Marketing Manager PharmaCertify
Part 1: Off-the-Shelf Training: The Good, the Bad, and How to Spot the Difference
Welcome to the first of several posts reflecting on the 23rd Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Ethics and Compliance Congress. In each post, I will review some of the key topics covered during the conference and provide my reactions, as well as related tips and suggestions for maximizing the effectiveness of your training curriculum. After all, helping you roll out better life sciences compliance training is the aim of this blog, and it’s our mission at PharmaCertify.
I often find sessions focused on emerging, or early-stage, companies to be compelling because smaller companies face the same risks as their larger counterparts, but with smaller budgets and fewer resources. That’s why two sessions from this year’s conference caught my attention – Mini Summit 9: Compliance & Ethics in Emerging Companies, and Mini Summit 14: General Corporate Compliance in an Early-Stage Company and Shared Learnings for Larger Companies.
Neither session disappointed, as presenters detailed their experiences in overcoming the challenges smaller companies face (e.g., the techniques necessary to gain buy-in and resources from leadership, and the need for “ruthless prioritization” to determine which tasks to tackle first).
While I was pleasantly surprised to hear much of the conversation during Mini Summit 14 to be focused on training, I was dismayed to hear about most of the presenters’ poor experiences with off-the-shelf training solutions. As a result, many were quick to dismiss off-the-shelf eLearning as “too generic to be effective,” or, “not current enough to be relevant.”
The sad truth is there is a fair share of bad off-the-shelf training available to the life sciences industry. And there is no better way to torpedo the effectiveness of training than to roll out outdated training with generic content that is not targeted to your learners. But dismissing off-the-shelf training as ineffective or a waste of money overlooks the advantages of high-quality (and customizable) off-the-shelf training for emerging and early-stage companies.
Let’s review some of the comments from the session:
“We were used to seeing off-the-shelf training that looked like it was created in 1992.”
If a training vendor’s demos look like they were created 30 years ago, run (don’t walk) away immediately. Content and design age quickly, and learners evolve. Training, whether custom-built or off-the-shelf, needs to evolve with them to capture their attention and enhance learning results.
Visual design matters and plays a critical role in making learning memorable. Quality training uses a modern and fresh visual design. Beware of the tell-tale signs of poor design, such as the overuse of trite stock photos to portray sales representatives and healthcare professionals. (I call that the “shiny, happy doctor look.”)
“Totally generic training just doesn’t resonate.”
Look for training that is targeted to the life sciences industry and customizable to your company’s culture and its risks. Just do an Internet search for “pharmaceutical (or medical device) compliance training,” and you’ll find plenty of options. Considering today’s eLearning development tools, customization doesn’t need to be cumbersome or expensive. Ask vendors about the process for modifying their modules. Can they be easily branded with your logo? Can you add role-specific scenarios? Is it easy to add your policies and contact information? Look for training that is instructionally designed for seamless and easy customization. “Generic” should never be necessary, no matter how the term is defined.
“You can use off-the-shelf at large companies, but it doesn’t work at smaller companies.”
This caught my attention because it’s not what I have heard over the last 15 years. As mentioned above, emerging companies face the same risks as their larger counterparts – but with smaller budgets and fewer resources.
Off-the-shelf training, when priced on a per-learner basis, offers an affordable alternative to custom solutions when a company has a smaller number of learners. Even in situations with larger numbers of learners, off-the-shelf training may be more affordable – and it’s far less time-intensive for compliance officers to implement. And quality does not have to be sacrificed. So, if your field force is still small, and you need to train them on the risks associated with HCP interactions, a targeted off-the-shelf training module may be the right fit.
Don’t give up. There is effective compliance training out there for life sciences companies. And effective off-the-shelf training works just as well for emerging companies as it does for more established companies. Most importantly, effective off-the-shelf training has the power to help you reduce risk across your company, especially when it is blended with reinforcement microlearning, live workshops, targeted communications, and other components in a continuous flow of learning for your employees.
If you’d like to see demos of effective life sciences compliance training, including our Compliance Foundations off-the-shelf library, contact us at email@example.com to speak to our team.
Thanks for reading!
Sean Murphy Product and Marketing Manager PharmaCertify
At PharmaCertify, our mission is to help you reduce risk through better compliance training. The mission of this blog is to provide you with a continuous flow of information to assist you in doing just that. To that end, I have reviewed the agenda for the upcoming Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Ethics and Compliance Congress (October 24-25 in Washington DC) with an eye toward the sessions I believe (and hope) are most likely to offer tips and suggestions to make your training curriculum more effective.
First, a disclaimer: while I know, or at least know of, many of the conference presenters, I am not familiar with the details of their presentations, or to what level they plan to address training. That said, here are the sessions I would put at the top of the list for helping you create better compliance training.
Day 1: Monday, October 24, 2022
9:00 am, MINI SUMMIT 3: New Product Launch Compliance Playbook For anyone prepping for a product launch, this looks like a can’t miss presentation. (Coincidentally, we recently posted a “Dear Connie the Compliance Training Director” article on this blog with ideas for how to cover the topics necessary to prepare a field team for a launch.) Terra Buckley, who heads up the Compliance Advisory Services team at MedPro, will be joined by Ann Beasley, Chief Compliance Officer at Zai Laboratory. Their combined industry experience and depth of knowledge is sure to make for a session chock full of the content you need to quell the product-launch training jitters.
9:00 am, MINI SUMMIT 4: You Finished Your Risk Assessment…Now What? Practical Approaches to Making Your Results Meaningful They had me at risk assessment. As followers of this blog can attest, we at PharmaCertify are advocates for designing a training curriculum based on risk. We utilize a process we call the compliance curriculum analysis process (CCAP) to help design a targeted training plan. So, you can see why I am intrigued by the title of this session, since it aligns with our approach. Here’s hoping Christie Camelio of EQRx, Olga Zinavenka from Endo International, and BJ D’Avella, of Paul Hastings delve into the training considerations following a risk assessment.
10:00 am, MINI SUMMIT 5: Social Media — Auditing and Monitoring to Promote Compliance in this Rapidly Evolving Landscape Here’s an anecdotal side note related to social media that highlights why I think this session should be a priority for anyone looking to optimize a compliance training curriculum: I was asked to review client changes to the storyboard for our Compliant Product Promotion eLearning module. The client added a comment on the social media screen of the document noting that her company’s policy does not allow for any product-related posts, even if they are on-label and truthful. Therein lies the problem.
The rules, policies, guidance, and best practices for the use of social media in this industry are constantly changing. You need to keep abreast of those changes and regularly consider how they should be integrated into your own policies, and subsequently, your training curriculum. Stephanie Kurteff of Medicines360, Nikki Reeves from King & Spalding, and Ed Sleeper, who is with HUTCHMED, will present.
11:00 am, MINI SUMMIT 8: New and Emerging Risks for Medical Device Medical device is in the house! Settlements are on the rise for the medical device industry, and compliance professionals facing the unique risks that accompany the promotion of devices would be wise to join Beth Weinman of Ropes & Gray, Sujata Dayal from Medline Industries, and Katherine Norris of Epsilon Life Sciences for their take on the new risks. If medical devices are your focus, and you want to know what you might be missing in your curriculum, you need to attend this one.
11:00 am, MINI SUMMIT 9: Compliance & Ethics in Emerging Companies I generally find the sessions focused on the risks facing emerging companies to be among the most valuable from a training standpoint. Compliance professionals from smaller companies face the same challenges as their colleagues from larger companies, with smaller budgets and fewer resources at their disposal. If the “emerging company” shoe figuratively fits your foot, I’m confident you will find the discussion with Kevin Ma from PharmaEssentia, Kristen Oberg from Mycovia Pharmaceuticals, and David Ryan of Epizyme to be helpful, especially (fingers crossed) if they include their suggestions for building effective training with what some might consider a shoestring budget.
1:30 pm, Keynote: US HHS Office of Inspector General Update If you’ve attended this conference over the years, you won’t be surprised that I’ve added this annual session by Mary Riordan of the OIG to my list. In fact, if I was writing this post by order of priority instead of chronologically, the session would be at the top of the list. Hearing the agency’s workplan for the upcoming year is a great starting point for anyone interested in knowing what topics should be targeted for training. Make it a priority.
5:45 pm, ADJOURNMENT AND NETWORKING RECEPTION: EXHIBIT HALL It’s been years since we’ve seen you in the Exhibit Hall! Don’t worry, I blame COVID, not you. But seriously, the reception is one of the best opportunities to mingle with your peers and share success stories for building and maintaining a successful compliance program. It’s also a great time to visit the wonderful vendors and learn the ways they can help you do just that.
The PharmaCertify team will be there (we’ve even got some surprise guests this year), with demos of the foundational, reinforcement, and performance support tools to help you launch better training. Even if it’s just to say hi, stop by the booth! We’re a friendly bunch.
Day 2: Tuesday, October 25, 2022
8:00 am, MINI SUMMIT 13: General Corporate Compliance in an Early-Stage Company and Shared Learnings for Larger Companies We may have a winner for the best session name for the conference, or at least the most audience-inclusive name. I have to say I am intrigued by the idea of carrying concepts from early-stage companies over to larger companies. While some challenges and risks are shared, some faced in early stages of product development are part in parcel to the limited resources to which they have access. The panel for this session is large and wide-ranging in terms of company size. It includes Rachel Batykefer from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, David Falcone from Merz Aesthetics, Andrea Kocharyan from Flagship Pioneering, Kirt Kraeuter from Moderna, Rachel Lei of Aldevron, and Kirsten Liston from Rethink Compliance.
9:00 am, MINI SUMMIT 17: The Evolving Transparency Reporting Landscape: Changes in 2022 and Preparing for 2023 I’m thrilled to see transparency reporting on the agenda. For context, we just revised the Compliance Foundations module, Raising Awareness of Global Transparency, and I can understand why the advent of new laws around the world make this a challenging topic for training. Determining who needs to know what, about which law, can be a challenging starting point. Our module covers the general concepts from a high-level, and includes a select list of laws, both established and new. We also include PDF documents related to the other laws in a “resources” section.
Okay, back to the session. Expect Kelly Tope of Takeda and Chelsea Ott from MedPro Systems to cover the relevant regulations in detail and jumpstart your thinking toward an effective approach to transparency training.
11:00 am, MINI SUMMIT 27: Practical Guidance for Building Better Compliance Training DO NOT MISS THIS ONE! You may think I am biased because the head of PharmaCertify, Dan O’Connor, is leading the panel, but I’ve seen the presentation slides and I am quite familiar with the training samples. Trust me when I say you want to be there. Dan will be joined by Madelyn Archibald of Bioventus, Ryan Bonistalli of Ultragenyx, and Jackie Parris from Incyte, who will share their experiences in designing, developing, and deploying better compliance training.
1:30 pm, CLOSING PLENARY SESSION: US Department of Justice Keynote, FDA Keynote, and AUSA Roundtable The presentations by current and former government representatives are usually worthwhile because the presenters offer a drastically different perspective than industry professionals. The experience and insights from this group are sure to be of value as they share their expectations for an effective program, and subsequently, a training curriculum.
The Department of Justice keynote, with Fraud Section Chief Glenn Leon, the FDA keynote with Acting Director Catherine Gray, and the AUSA Roundtable with Kelly Begg Lawrence from the District of Massachusetts, Jamie Yavelberg from the Civil Division of the DOJ, and Michael Loucks, of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, (and formerly with the District of Massachusetts) should all be considered for that important viewpoint.
Day 3: Wednesday, October 26, 2022
9:15 am, Cardiac Arrest — A CEO Lessons Learned from Surviving a Five-Year Criminal Prosecution If you’re staying for Day 3, don’t be late! I’m not sure if I can make the connection to an effective training curriculum with this one, but based on this description in the agenda, it could be interesting: Howard Root, former CEO from Vascular Solutions, will share his own experience as he faced down prosecution from the Department of Justice in a whistleblower case and won.
11:25 am, Debrief, Q&A and Best Practice Sharing Jill Dailey from Incyte, Joshua Marks from Takeda, and Daniel Spicehandler of Stryker will spend the final 35 minutes of the conference summarizing the key points and best practices shared during the first two days. Plan on attending to catch up on what you may have missed from the sessions you may have missed.
Although it is billed as a “hybrid” event, the 23rd Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Ethics and Compliance Congress represents the first opportunity since the pandemic began for the industry to gather in person to share experiences, best practices, tips, and suggestions for building and maintaining an effective compliance program. While PCF has made every effort to replicate the experience of a live event with recent virtual congresses, the personal interaction and information sharing that occurs during live conferences outweighs an online experience.
If you are interested in attending the conference, we can help with a “friend of faculty” discount for first-time attendees. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to take advantage of this opportunity (in-person or online) to hear industry leaders, government representatives, and leading vendors at the discounted rate!
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to visit us at the PharmaCertify booth!
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…
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
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 email@example.com to see a demo.)
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?
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.
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.
Editor’s Note (September 13, 2022): this post has been updated to include additional suggestions for foundational, reinforcement, and performance support compliance training solutions.
In its guidance related to the evaluation of corporate compliance programs, the Department of Justice repeatedly stresses the importance of appropriately tailored and risk-based training. The guidance suggests prosecutors should “assess the steps companies have taken to ensure policies and procedures have been integrated into the organization.” I can still almost hear the pleas of compliance professionals wondering exactly how they are going to accomplish such integration. The solution is found in a straightforward formula: foundational + reinforcement + performance support = integration (F+R+PS = I). I know, it’s not as simple as the Properties of Equality we all learned in junior high school, but we’ve seen it work time and time again.
As the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve illustrates, the information humans remember after a learning event drops steeply soon after completion of that event. In fact, that loss of recall continues to increase until it finally flattens around 30-days post event. So, F+R+PS = I to the rescue!
Starting with a Strong Foundation
Let’s start with the first elements of the integration formula, foundational training.
Any successful journey toward integration begins with effective foundational, training. In its guidance, the DOJ instructs prosecutors to consider the form, content, and effectiveness of that training. But what is “effective” foundational training? It begins with relevancy. Does your eLearning feature content to which your learners can relate? Are the scenarios based on interactions and situations your learners are likely to face? Is the content written in plain language? Has the content been vetted by subject matter experts who understand the nuances of interactions with HCPs, HIPAA, or product promotion? For all those reasons and more, broad-based, cross-industry training doesn’t work and is frankly a waste of time and budget. As you know, your sales representatives aren’t benefitting from scenarios featuring ethical discussions between two insurance employees.
Effectiveness also requires a fresh graphic design and user interface. Modern training development tools allow for the use of illustrated images to represent characters such as doctors, sales representatives and MSLs. Let’s be honest, stock photos scream stock photos – or as I call them, “shiny happy doctors and sales reps.” Illustrated characters also offer more opportunity for inclusion of characters that ALL employees can relate to. Your learners want to see representations of themselves in their training.
Finally, effective foundational training is built with proven instructional design strategies in mind. Are the learning objectives specific enough to be meaningful? Is the content logically organized? Are knowledge checks and interactive exercises appropriately woven into the training? Can the questions in the assessment be mapped directly to the content in the module?
This isn’t to say effective eLearning always has to be custom developed. Industry-focused, creative, engaging, and modern off-the-shelf training is a great solution for establishing an effective base. So, if you’re with an emerging pharmaceutical or medical device company with limited time and resources, off-the-shelf training is a viable option. Just do your homework and talk to your peers to make sure it’s the right off-the-she solution. (Shameless pitch – we can help!) Of course, custom development does present an opportunity to take your curriculum to another level with more options for branded training laser-focused on your policies if the budget is available.
Also, don’t fall into the current trap of thinking all training has to be short to be effective. Yes, you want to keep foundational eLearning modules no longer than 30 minutes or so, but if 30 minutes are necessary to cover a comprehensive overview of the topic, the learners can sit through it. After all, if we can binge-watch our favorite streaming series, we certainly have the attention span to complete a 30-minute module, assuming it is relevant and engaging.
Reinforcement Drives Retention
The second element of the formula for more effective training is reinforcement. When strategically deployed following the initial workshop or eLearning, reinforcement solutions in the form of microlearning modules serve to boost learning, reinforce key topics, and help flatten that nasty Forgetting Curve. For example, if gifts and meals are a high risk for your HCP-facing employees, a scenario-based mini module built around a common situation they face in the field, deployed soon after the foundational training on interactions with HCPs, is an ideal way to increase retention of critical information.
Microlearning modules aren’t the only effective tools for making training more effective, though. Reinforcement learning nuggets could include quizzes and games deployed repeatedly over time. Look for games that can be completed individually or in a multi-player virtual workshop. The Compliance JEOPARDY! game from PharmaCertify, for example, is available in both formats and is easily customized with your content. By the way, it’s the only officially licensed JEOPARDY! game on market and it’s an instantly recognizable way to pull learners into an important reinforcement activity. They’ll even thank you for it.
Other reinforcement approaches could include virtual or live workshops with content built around the situations sales representatives are likely to face in the field. Why not create a a virtual escape room, for example, with challenges customized for the situations your learners can expect to face in the their daily interactions? (Let me know if you’d like to see a demo of the escape room we built for a client, which recently won a gold Brandon Hall Award for Best Compliance Training!)
The effective integration of compliant practices and policies requires the continuous deployment of a variety of reinforcement solutions. Government agencies like the DOJ and the OIG have made it clear in their guidance, and recent industry settlements and corporate integrity agreements highlight the need as well.
Supporting Their Performance
We’ve come to the ”PS” in the equation that holds the key to achieving integration in a life sciences compliance equation: performance support. Performance support includes those just-in-time resources that people need when they are in-the-moment and can’t remember compliance guidance.
Digital support tools like electronic banners support compliance training messages and themes. When splashed across the company intranet and incorporated into digital messaging from the compliance department and the C-Suite, they remind everyone of the key messages from the foundational and reinforcement training.
Don’t shy away from the use of video either. Despite what some high-end production companies will tell you, you don’t need to use your entire training budget on a high-end video. You’re not creating Compliance: The Live Action Musical. You’re looking for ways to support your efforts with a creative and engaging video. Tools like Vyond are affordable and easy-to-learn way to accomplish those goals. Many of our clients are developing short (1-3 minute) videos that are pushed out via hyperlink and housed in a library on the compliance page of their intranet. Some even use platforms like Microsoft Stream as an internal YouTube, so that people can rate and comment on the videos.
Finally, materials like quick reference guides support positive behavior and deliver critical reminders when people need them most…as they are about to engage in activities rife with the potential for compliance violation. And other print material like posters and comic books are a great and thematically fun way to drip the learning throughout the duration of a compliance training campaign.
The key to success and “effectiveness” in compliance training, foundational + reinforcement + performance support = integration, will not be remembered among the great formulas in history (rest easy Albert Einstein), but any compliance professional would be wise to heed its power. At PharmaCertify, we’ve spent the last 15 years developing compliance training for the life sciences industry. We have the in-house compliance expertise, along with the instructional design and production skill, to help you implement this formula as a necessary step toward meeting the expectations of the regulators, your peers, and perhaps most importantly, your learners.
That’s why we are planning webinars, video-based chats, infographics, more blog posts, and other resources to showcase examples of how our clients are utilizing each stage of the formula to increase the effectiveness of their training. Subscribe to this blog and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep abreast of the details to follow as we continue to provide the information you need to help reduce risk through training. After all, it’s our mission.
Live compliance conferences are back! And organizers of the 2022 Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress hit the ground running with an impressive array of industry and government speakers presenting to an audience of eager compliance professionals. The return to some sense of “normalcy” was certainly refreshing as attendees, presenters, and vendors exchanged experiences, anecdotes, and ideas for building more effective compliance programs.
After two years of virtual conferences, this one felt different in terms of content as well, with presenters and audience members discussing, and even debating a range of topics (if you were there, you know all about the discussion around the OIG Special Fraud Alert on Speaker Programs). Below are some comments that stood out in terms of industry lessons, along with my thoughts on what these lessons could mean for your curriculum as you strive to reduce risk with better compliance training.
1. The Lesson: Good enough training is not nearly good enough.
What Was Said: “Having a healthy compliance program is not enough. The Department of Justice has made it clear they expect your program to evolve.”
When It Was Said:Why and How You Can EVOLVE Your Compliance Program
What It Means for Your Curriculum: Your training curriculum must evolve with your program. In fact, the agency’s 2020 Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs document is clear when it calls for “more targeted training to enable employees to identify and raise issues,” and it instructs prosecutors to ask, “has the company evaluated the extent to which the training has an impact on employee behavior or operations?” So, how does a busy compliance officer demonstrate that he or she is deploying training that “has an impact on behavior?”
It begins with a continuous learning approach to your curriculum. As I have written in previous posts on this blog, the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve demonstrates that learners will forget up to 90% of what they have learned seven days after the event. So, if you’re not continuously evolving by deploying nuggets of compliance training, your chances of demonstrating impactful training when the regulators come calling are dangerously slim. Have you integrated microlearning covering high-risk topics into your curriculum? Are you supporting your field team with just-in-time interactive PDFs and messaging in the field when they need it most?
2. The Lesson: Medical Science Liaisons need to know more than medical affairs.
What Was Said: “Don’t assume people in medical affairs have been trained the right way.”
When It Was Said:A Look at Commercial and Medical Affairs to Understand Changes to An Organization’s Evolving Compliance Needs
What It Means for Your Curriculum: Everyone in your organization, from the top down, including the medical affairs staff, needs to be trained in the rules, polices, and nuances of compliance. Don’t make the mistake of focusing mostly on the field staff.
MSLs, for example, are trained extensively in the science associated with a company’s products and therapeutic areas. However, they need a baseline of knowledge on commercial interactions with HCPs to understand what separates their activities from those of field staff and what defines scientific exchange versus promotion. A more compliant and ethical culture is formed when MSLs and sales representatives understand what divides their roles and what they can expect of one another in their daily business activities.
3. The Lesson: Assess it, build it, test it, repeat.
What Was Said: “Your compliance program needs to be proactive and well-tested.”
When It Was Said:Keynote Enforcement Panel — Stay on the Pulse of Emerging Trends
What It Means for Your Curriculum: It’s not as much what was said, but in which session it was said, that piqued my interest. I’ve heard savvy and respected industry professionals espouse the need for a more proactive approach to compliance for years, but now the regulators have joined the “time for a change” chorus and that should be a signal to the entire industry.
A regularly scheduled curriculum analysis will help ensure your program is viewed as one that is “proactive and well-tested.” We help our clients 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. Gaps and redundancies are delineated using our Compliance Curriculum Analysis Tool (CCAT), allowing for opportunities to effectively address any identified risks through a stream of continuous training. It’s a comprehensive process that often reveals surprises in terms of what is and isn’t covered sufficiently. Don’t raise your risk level by assuming you know.
4. The Lesson: Speaker programs, speaker programs, and, did I mention, speaker programs.
What Was Said: A lot, especially about alcohol (more on that later).
When It Was Said: Often, but I will focus on the Oversight and Best Practices for Speaker Programs, HCP Engagement and Sales Interaction session.
What It Means for Your Training: Where do I begin? Not surprisingly, speaker programs were an intended and unintended oft-repeated topic. In the Oversight and Best Practices for Speaker Programs, HCP Engagement and Sales Interaction presentation, presenters offered valuable tips in consideration of the regulatory focus on the programs by corporate integrity agreements and the OIG Special Fraud Alert. As an example, a significant amount of time was spent discussing the necessity for a needs assessment for each program as justification for the topic, speaker, and invitees. And, of course, meals and alcohol were addressed at length, with panelists weighing in on how their companies handle the management of both.
The advent of the pandemic and subsequently, virtual speaker programs, has led the government to raise questions about the need for live programs. And the OIG’s Special Fraud Alert clearly continues to reverberate across the bow of the industry. It’s a hot topic and diligence is needed more than ever to establish justification for the programs, as well as for training on the changing details around the programs. If you have not updated your speaker program training (for field staff as well as HCPs), the newly updated, Managing Speaker Program Risk, from our Compliance Foundations library of off-the-shelf eLearning modules, covers topics like program logistics, virtual programs, speaker criteria, attendee management, and responding to off-label questions. Just send me a note if you’d like to see a demo.
5. The Lesson: Cover the important details but don’t get caught up in the minutia.
What Was Said: “As compliance professionals, it’s a shame we have to spend so much time on whether or not alcohol should be served, when the core purpose should be that you have to run an educational event.”
When It Was Said:Chairperson’s Review of Day 1
What It Means for Your Training: If there was an unintended theme to the conference, it was alcohol (and I am not referring to any activity at the hotel bar). In light of the Special Fraud Alert and recent changes to the PhRMA Code, the presence of alcohol at speaker programs took center stage. It was discussed by presenters and audience members throughout the conference. Do you serve it? Do you allow it? Can attendees bring it in from another room? Can they leave and get a drink? Eventually, multiple presenters emphatically pointed out that attendees are much too focused on this one narrow topic and getting caught up in details like this is a waste of time and energy.
The almost obsessive attention to alcohol did lead one presenter to raise a compelling question though, “How does a company make sure important issues are addressed while not spending too much time on the logistics?” It’s a critical consideration for your curriculum as well, and the secret is in the planning. Taking the time to map your highest risks against the levels and frequency of training is the first step to ensuring that necessary topics are covered appropriately. And, just as importantly, that time and resources are not misspent obsessing over topics that don’t represent a high level of risk for your company.
6. The Lesson: It’s a small world after all.
What Was Said: “We are looking to France and other countries for ideas.”
When It Was Said:Compliance Top 10 — Clear and Concise Overview of the Top Areas of Concern for the Compliance Professional
What It Means for Your Training: If your company does business overseas, training needs to be extended and tracked to those responsible for that business, even if its solely third-party vendors. Do you understand the tenants of regulations like Loi Bertrand (French Sunshine Act) and the EFPIA Disclosure Code? Also, do your global third-party vendors have access to the same training you are utilizing for your employees? Can they access your internal learning management system? If not, you need to find a cost-effective solution like PharmaCertify’s Access LMS.
Even if your company’s business is solely based in the US, you need to have an awareness of global trends. As demonstrated in recent conferences, presenters from US agencies like the DOJ have made it clear they are partnering with other governments to investigate corruption and non-compliance. They’re identifying trends around the world and using those to inform their own activities. Are you doing the same in consideration of your program and your curriculum?
7. The Lesson: Don’t assume people know the basics.
What Was Said: “You have to remember that a lot of people there have not been with a commercial company.”
When It Was Said:Emerging and Small Company
What It Means for Your Training: No matter the size of your company or the nature of its products, an effective and proactive training curriculum begins with an analysis of who needs what training and an awareness of the topic knowledge of your audience. Does your audience have previous experience with the commercial aspects of the business? Are you hiring non-tenured employees? Do they understand the industry as a whole? These are all questions you need to consider.
For example, building a training module around field-based scenarios might seem like an instructionally sound idea in general, but if your learners have been with a pre-commercial company for most, if not all, of their careers, you may want to rethink your approach. A fundamental module covering topics such as the state of the industry, why compliance is everyone’s concern, what employees can say about products in general, and the nature of the company’s relationship with healthcare professionals will ground them in the basics they need to succeed.
8. The Lesson: A values-based approach and data-driven approach are not mutually exclusive.
What Was Said: “Do not strive to have a data-driven compliance program; strive to have a values-driven program supported by data.”
When It Was Said:CCO Innovation Panel
What It Means for Your Training: Perhaps the debate over whether a values-based approach to compliance provides the right level of data to drive an appropriate level of valuable data has reached the point at which we can acknowledge both are possible. The same holds true for training. Yes, learners want and need to know the answers and information they need to compliantly conduct their activities, (e.g., how much can they spend on meals to HCPs). However, having the data to show who has been trained on what concepts and at what frequency is necessary to demonstrate a level of adherence to compliant practices — and frankly — to help you sleep better at night.
I have written on this blog about the successful formula for compliance training: core + reinforcement + performance support = integration (C+R+PS = I). The first two components of that equation provide ample opportunities to gather the data necessary to demonstrate an effective level of training and steer future training in an even more effective direction. The third component, performance support, which includes tools such as videos on the company intranet, posters, and electronic banners, raises the awareness level of training campaigns with opportunities to communicate the intention behind the training: to foster an overall sense of “doing the right thing,” and “remembering why we are here.”
The First Step Back
Kudos to Informa and the presenters for creating a successful first step back to in-person conferences. The excitement among attendees was palpable and it extended to the exhibit hall as we enjoyed countless opportunities to showcase how we help clients build better compliance training.
If you attended the conference, Dan O’Connor and his panel of industry professionals, presented great examples of how they utilize a continuous approach to training to reduce risk. It, along with some of the other sessions, is still available for conference attendees. If you didn’t attend and would like to see the demos, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a brief meeting.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to seeing you at the next conference!
“The social brain is in its natural habitat when we’re talking with someone face-to-face in real time.” Daniel Goleman Author, Psychologist, and Journalist
Welcome back to live and in-person compliance congresses!
This year’s Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress is a “hybrid event,” with the in-person conference scheduled for April 25 – 27 at the Ritz-Carlton in McLean, VA. And I am sure I speak for my fellow sponsors and vendors, as well as attendees from industry, when I say, “woot, woot!”
As much as conference organizers like Informa and PCF made every effort to replicate the live experience with their virtual conferences, networking and sharing ideas and experiences is simply more effective and rewarding in a live setting, with everyone focused on the common goal of reducing risk and building a better compliance program.
So, it is with great anticipation I offer this preview of the “in-person” agenda for PCC 2022 and highlight those sessions that look interesting from a training standpoint. After all, it’s what we do at PharmaCertify.
Day 1: Monday, April 25
9:30am – 10:00am PhRMA Update
The annual PhRMA presentation appears early on the agenda this year, and the presentation by Jim Stansel should be particularly compelling in light of recent updates to the Code and the Statement on the Application of PhRMA Code Section 2 During Emergency Periods from back in June of 2020.
I’m anxious to hear how the organization plans to incorporate the guidance on virtual interactions as the world continues to emerge from the pandemic and we return to a little less of an “emergency period.” By the way, the PharmaCertify Foundations eLearning module, The PhRMA Code, has been updated to cover the changes to the Code and the language in the Statement.
10:30am – 11:00am Building a Compliance Program and Educating Internal Stakeholders to Gain Alignment, Support and Ownership
Well, that title is a mouthful, but if anyone can handle so much content in a 30-minute session, it’s this impressive lineup of panelists. Industry leader, Terra Buckley, Vice President of Compliance Advisory Services at MedPro, is joined by Jeremy Lutsky from PhaseBio, Ann Beasely of Zai Lab, Christie Camelio from TG Therapeutics, and Emily Gainor of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals. Hopefully, they will touch on training, because if you’re going to push the envelope to build a better curriculum, you’re going to need buy-in from the C-Suite.
11:00am – 12:15pm Keynote Enforcement Panel — Stay on the Pulse of Emerging Trends
I know I sound like a broken record (I am assuming that metaphor still works since albums have made such a comeback), but do not miss the enforcement panels. Nowhere else will you hear directly from those responsible for establishing the “emerging areas of focus and recent trends in enforcement oversight,” as it is described in the agenda. No less than six government representatives, including the Assistant Director of the Consumer Protection Branch of the DOJ, will be there to offer their thoughts on their top priorities. I will be listening carefully for how those trends inform our custom and off-the-shelf training courses.
12:15pm – 1:15pm Networking Lunch
Come visit the PharmaCertify booth! Well, you may have to if the folks at Informa strategically place the food in the Exhibit Hall. But seriously, we do look forward to catching up with our existing clients and contacts and even making new connections. We’ve got new and really cool demos to share, and we even have a new theme for our booth. Just look for the compliance training heroes flying around the room (or at least flying around our booth – we’re still working on permission from the hotel to fly around the room)!
1:15pm – 3:00pm Post-Lunch Tracks
The afternoon sessions are divided into three tracks titled, Patient and Advocacy Compliance; Auditing, Monitoring and Advanced Analytics; and Digital Health for the Compliance Professional. A number of the sessions from each track look inviting from a training content standpoint. As always, I recommend teaming up to cover multiple sessions if you are attending with coworkers, or even finding a study buddy onsite (I am always willing to share notes if you want to attack this together) and devise a strategy for covering as many sessions as possible. Here are the ones that catch my “training topic relevance eye” at first glance:
1:15pm – 1:45pm Optimize Advocacy-Compliance Interactions by Minimizing Barriers and Enhancing Successful Partnerships,with Christopher Canada and Amanda Sowinski, both from Amicus Therapeutics.
2:15pm-3:00pm Spotlight on Rare Disease Compliance Risks, with Danielle Pelot from Choate, Hall & Stewart, Kelly Pitt from MorphoSys, Stephen Bychowski of Sanofi Genzyme, and Michael Hercz from Sentynl Therapeutics.
1:15pm – 1:30pm Enforcement Update, with Gustav Eyler from the DOJ
2:00pm – 2:30p Key Oversight Areas for Critical Compliance Insights from Sales to Patient Support, with Karen Lowney of SUN PHARMA, Tiffany Tang from Covis Pharma, Mark Scallon of Baker Tilly, and Brian Kasnowski from SK Life Science.
1:15pm – 1:45pm Social Media – Risks vs. Benefits, with Brian Van Hoy of G&M Health
3:30pm – 4:15pm
Following a networking break at 3:30 (during which you will, no doubt, make a beeline to the PharmaCertify booth to learn more about how we can help you be a compliance training hero), two concurrent breakout sessions both look enticing in consideration of how the topics potentially affect our clients’ training courses. So, I am going to need a note-sharing partner on these two:
Oversight and Best Practices for Speaker Programs, HCP Engagement and Sales Interactions There it is! The first appearance of that “sp” word. Actually, speaker programs are sure to be covered in an enforcement panel or two by now, but anytime I see it in the title of a session, I want to be there. It’s an ever-evolving topic and the OIG Special Fraud Alert sill reverberates through the industry and in our training programs. This is yet another panel featuring an impressive lineup, with Catherine St. John from Sanofi, Cynthia Cetani of Indivior, Rore Middleton from Blueprint Medicines and Emily Gainor of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals.
Examination and Application of Key Learnings from Industry’s Most Recent CIAs Speaking of guidance, Corporate Integrity Agreements hold the fine-print details on the topics and training requirements the government considers a priority. If you want to know where to focus your training, CIAs (and this session with Elizabeth Jobes of Amryt and Nikki Reeves of King & Spalding), are good places to start.
Day 1 closes with two more concurrent sessions, divided by company size. The Emerging and Small Company panel holds particular sway for me since so many of our clients face the challenge of building an effective curriculum with the limited resources and time restrictions inherent to smaller companies. I’ll be curious to hear how Jake DeBoever of Dermavent Sciences, Jeremy Lutzky of PhaseBio, and Hunter Murdock of Axsome Therapeutics take on these challenges.
5:00pm – 6:00pm Networking and Cocktail Reception Hopefully, this is in the Exhibit Hall, so come see us again! We’ve got giveaways you’ll really dig.
Day 2: Tuesday, April 26
The morning opens with an industry-only summit, and since I am over here on the vendor side, I am sure to be denied access at the door. And I was so prepared to write glowing reviews of everything that happens in that summit in my conference review on this blog. Are they talking about us in there?
8:45am – 9:15am Compliance Top 10 — Clear and Concise Overview of the Top Areas of Concern for the Compliance Professional
Following his review of Day 1, John Oroho, from Porzio Life Sciences, offers this enticingly titled session covering the topics that should be of primary concern to the attendees. And if they are areas of concern in general, they areas of focus for compliance training. I’ll be taking copious notes in this one.
Following a CCO Innovation Panel at Panel at 9:15, a networking break at 10:00 (meet me for coffee in the Exhibit Hall everyone!) and a session focused on monitoring at 10:30, the spotlight turns to the Former Prosecutor Spotlight (see what I did there?) featuring Rachel Honig, the former Acting U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey and George Varghese, of WilmerHale. As with the enforcement panels, the former prosecutor sessions offer revealing insight into the topics the industry should prioritize and those that should be a focus for training.
12:15pm – 1:55pm Lunchtime! You really need to visit the PharmaCertify booth this time because this is when I break out all the new comedy material I’ve been working on just for this conference. Here’s a small sampling: what do you call a monument of a horse with his back legs firmly on the ground? An Anti-Kickback “Statue!” Get it?! Okay, here’s another one…a chief compliance officer, a sales representative, and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney walk into a bar (and you only get to hear the punchline if you visit the booth).
1:15pm – 4:00pm Breakout Sessions
After lunch and more bad jokes, the agenda is divided into three breakout sessions. I will be focused on the session covering the previously mentioned OIG Special Fraud Alert on Speaker Programs. I’m anxious to hear what the panel of seven speakers, including Sarah Whipple of Akebia Therapeutics, Hannah Putnam of Fresenius Medical Care, Andrea Kocharyan of Zealand Pharma, Ernie Hernandez of Global Blood Therapeutics, and Averi Price of Radius Health have to say on the enduring guidance, especially regarding how it affects their training.
Since medical affairs and the sales representative/MSL dynamic is always of interest from a training standpoint, the session titled, A Look at Commercial and Medical Affairs to Understand Changes to An Organization’s Evolving Compliance Needs with David Ryan of Epizyme, Jake DeBoever of Dermavant, Amy Wilson of Esperion, and Ed Sleeper of HUTCHMED is my first choice among the 2:00pm – 2:45 breakout options.
Among the 3:15pm breakout sessions for the day, the Third-Party Risk and Oversight presentation, with Ling Zeng of Dicerna, is most interesting for me considering how often we are asked to build and deliver training to global third parties. By the way, the Access LMS from PharmaCertify is a streamlined and cost-effective platform for delivering training to those vendors who don’t have access to your enterprise LMS. Let me know if you’d like to see a demo at the conference or otherwise.
From 4:00pm – 4:45pm, you do not want to miss the breakout session, Reduce Compliance Risk Using a Continuous Learning Approach by my colleague Dan O’Connor, Ed Sleeper of HUTCHMED, Dhara Moro from Sage Therapeutics, and another player to be named later. In leading the PharmaCertify team, Dan has helped forge a new approach to compliance training, based on improving retention through continuous delivery of training assets across a learner’s timeline. I have known Ed Sleeper for many years, and his experience developing engaging compliance training brings a strong and practical perspective to the presentation. And Dhara Moro and Sage have been rolling out some of the more unique and engaging compliance training we’ve seen in the last 20 years. Trust me, this is a strong presentation, featuring experienced training professionals showcasing compelling work.
Day 3: April 27, 2022
Following an important and timely breakfast summit on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, John Oroho’s review of Day 2, and a Policy Reforms, Pricing Pressures and Payer Marketplace Changes Impacting the Life Sciences session with Chris Sloan and Katherine Chaurette, both of Blueprint Medicines at 9:15am, you have your final chance to visit the PharmaCertify booth in the Exhibit Hall!
The conference closes with back-to-back agency addresses with Veronika Peleshchuk Fradlin from CMS and Catherine Gray from the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion at the FDA.
This year’s Pharmaceutical Compliance Congress promises to be a special one as industry leaders, vendors, and government regulators gather face-to-face for the first time in years to share experiences, expertise, and advice on building and maintaining an effective life sciences compliance program. If you haven’t yet registered for the conference, contact me at email@example.com to receive a discount on the registration fee. You don’t want to miss this one!
If you aren’t able to attend the conference, you can schedule a brief session to see examples of how we help reduce risk with better core training, reinforcement, and performance support solutions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you in Virginia and thanks for reading!
Sean Murphy PharmaCertify by NXLevel Solutions Build Better Compliance Training, with PharmaCertify®
Welcome to this installment in the Building Better Compliance Training series. Our mission at PharmaCertify is to help you reduce risk through better compliance training, and my goal in this series to provide you first-hand tips and ideas for creating a more effective compliance training curriculum.
In my last post, I revealed the formula for making compliance training more effective: Core Training + Reinforcement + Performance Support = Integration (C+R+PS = I). This time, I focus on the ”R” of that formula and offer five proven methods for reinforcing core training to help ensure your learners recall key concepts and policies when adherence is needed most, particularly during interactions with healthcare professionals.
Since studies show that as much as 90 percent of information learned during one event is forgotten within 30 days (remember the Forgetting Curve), here are five ideas to help ensure your learners don’t fall victim to this sad statistic:
Go “micro” to make it memorable.
Microlearning is all the rage, and for good reason. Targeted microlearning modules (we call them Compliance QuickTakes) are an ideal way to reinforce critical concepts introduced in core training. Launching a QuickTake on gifts and meals soon after core training on promotional practices, for example, helps improve retention of your company’s policies on a topic fraught with compliance risk.
In addition, today’s eLearning development tools (e.g., Articulate Storyline) make it easier and more cost effective than ever to create reinforcement modules from larger, foundational eLearning. So don’t fall into the trap of thinking one-and-done eLearning is going to meet the needs of a team facing the risk of the proverbial Forgetting Curve at every turn, especially when the opportunity to flatten that curve is just a few select reinforcement modules away.
Lights, camera, animation!
Animated video, featuring illustrated characters, is a compelling method for developing modern videos and a welcome relief for audiences steeped in the disappointment of reinforcement programs populated with dry content and unrecognizable stock photos. Illustrated characters offer a flexibility not easily matched with stock photography, and let you easily create a set of actors equal in diversity to your company’s personnel.
One of our clients regularly launches “Compliance Moments” videos to reinforce key topics from their core training. The programs feature serious content presented in a light (sometimes humorous) tone to help make the messages stick. Having a scriptwriter who combines a keen sense of instructional design with an awareness of how to create realistic scenarios is a must to make the training work. (P.S. we have these.)
Solve a compliance mystery.
Who doesn’t like a good mystery? And who wouldn’t prefer solving a compliance mystery over the typical slide-based presentation?
The days of a compliance officer speaking to a PowerPoint deck are fading fast and your learners expect a higher quality of workshop training. As importantly, a strategically scheduled compliance mystery workshop gives you the opportunity to take a “deeper dive” into the content and immerse participants in the learning, whether the environment is live or virtual.
It’s the ideal reinforcement opportunity as learners act as compliance detectives, work together to identify red flags and determine the best course of action for each scenario. To ramp up the learning even more, try sharing team scores from a leaderboard during the workshop.
It’s engaging, it’s modern, and it’s a great way to make the training relevant as you enhance retention of compliance policies and best practices.
Play a game…virtually, or in a live workshop.
Games work for reinforcement. In fact, according to a recent study, 80 percent of US workers believe game-based learning is more effective. And if they believe it, they welcome it, especially over the standard compliance training formats.
While games such as JEOPARDY! (which we also offer), come with the built-in advantage of being familiar to the learners, the format and gameplay doesn’t have to be recognizable to be effective. The key is simplicity, fun, and flexibility to customize the categories with your content.
Put simply, games work for reinforcement because they require participants to retrieve information from the long-term memory, process it in the working memory, then re-encode it back into the long-term memory (okay, maybe that wasn’t put simply).
“Escape” to more effective reinforcement training.
Escape rooms are a familiar concept for your audience. And familiarity breeds learning.
So, why not create a virtual compliance escape room to help reinforce the rules and policies around topics like virtual sales calls, speaker programs, and medical conferences? The virtual rooms we have created for clients feature a series of clickable clues followed by a series of knowledge checks based on those clues.
An important note: the knowledge checks should be challenging enough that learners will need to revisit the clues to think through the correct answers. Make it subtle and challenging. Returning to the clues to recall the correct information helps the knowledge retention process and serves to strengthen reinforcement of the messages.
Throughout 2022, we will continue to post articles on this blog, as well as infographics and tips sheets on the Insights page of our website to help you build a better compliance training curriculum. In the meantime, if you’d like to see demos of the products referenced in this article and discuss how we can help you reduce risk through training, contact us at email@example.com.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Pharmaceutical Compliance Forum (PCF) understandably went virtual again for the Virtual 22nd Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Ethics and Compliance Congress. Though the lack of booth traffic that inevitably accompanies virtual conferences left the PharmaCertify team longing for the return to in-person events, this year’s presentations featured a bevy of new and compelling content from industry professionals and government regulators alike.
Here are ten takeaways to keep top of mind as you continue to plan, revise, and refine your training curriculum for the first quarter of 2022 and beyond.
The focus on speaker programs isn’t going away.
If the 2020 release of the OIG’s Special Fraud Alert related to speaker programs was a figurative shot across the bow of the life sciences industry, the updated PhRMA Code, scheduled to take effect January 2022, offers steadying guidance on the details of how to conduct more compliant programs. In the OIG Update session and across multiple mini summits involving industry leaders, the mandate was clear: speaker programs are rife with the potential for fraudulent activity and assessing program practices and the level at which you train on those practices is crucial.
Hold the third parties you use for managing speaker programs to the same standards as your internal organization.
Third parties have long been a staple of emphasis at industry compliance conferences, but the increased emphasis on speaker programs highlighted in recent CIAs, the OIG’s Special Fraud Alert, and the revised PhRMA Code speaks to the need for increased scrutiny. And presenters at the conference picked up on that theme. As one presenter noted, “You need to be clear up front, when you are negotiating with third parties you expect full transparency.” And training needs to be part of that consideration from the start of the conversations. Have the vendors you’re considering instituted their own training on speaker programs? Do they need to be added to your list of learners? If yes, do they have access to your enterprise LMS or will they need to access the courses through a separate portal?
Look to the new PhRMA Code for guidance.
During the mini summit focused on the OIG Alert, PhRMA Code, and AdvaMed Code, Julie Wagner, from PhRMA, detailed the process the organization went through to plan and revamp its Code. It was clearly a thoughtful and well-planned series of steps. Other presenters throughout the conference (on the industry side as well as government representatives) emphasized the need for companies to look to the Code as a framework for how to conduct HCP interactions. The updates to the Code reflect the key takeaways from recent corporate integrity agreements as well as the challenges of conducting business in a post-pandemic world. Whether your company is a signatory or not, training on the new PhRMA Code is more critical than ever. That’s why we have rebuilt our Compliance Foundations eLearning module, The PhRMA Code, with a more intuitive interface and design, and an instructionally redesigned approach to the content. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to see a content outline.
Assess risk across your organization, and don’t forget your training curriculum.
I may be a bit biased since the moderator is my colleague, Dan O’Connor, but the mini summit titled, Optimize Your Compliance Training: A Practical Approach to the DOJ’s Guidance, was one of the most important of the entire conference. Dan discussed the need to assess risk according to audience, topic, format, and cadence with his panelists, Katrina Church of Bioventus, Matthew Hill of Novo Nordisk, and Karen Snyder of Ironwood Pharmaceuticals. If you’re not mapping your activities frequency against the risk associated with each of those activities, the learning will suffer, and risk will rise. All risk is not created equal, and as one presenter in the DOJ/SEC panel said, “It’s difficult to implement an effective program if you don’t know where your risks are.”
You really do want employees to speak up. So, tell them.
Self-remediation was a theme during the DOJ Keynote as panelists emphasized the importance of companies bringing issues found during their own due diligence to the attention of the agency. Doing so appears to go a long way in how the agency treats cases, especially when the companies demonstrate they are taking the necessary measures to identify the root causes of the issue and remediate them. Does your training encourage employees to speak up when they witness potential violations? Is that message pushed out in periodic scenarios as part of your on-going microlearning efforts? The compliance department can’t be everywhere at all times, so reports of violations are more likely to come from the field. Make sure your learners are well-versed in your reporting and non-retaliation policies.
Be ready for surprises when the industry shifts back to field-based interactions.
During the Chief Compliance Officer FiresideChat, one CCO touched on the need to expect surprises as the industry returns to more field-based interactions by saying, “When we get back out into the field, I’m sure there will be things we weren’t expecting.” Is your curriculum built to respond to those surprises? Have you integrated the type of learning nuggets that can be quickly modified and re-deployed as the bumps in the compliance road appear? Including such easy-to-modify components such as mini-modules, alerts, and read and signs into your curriculum creates the agility to respond rapidly before those surprises cause even more uproar.
Patient programs and third-party vendors: a risky combination.
Since the OIG requires manufacturers to take steps to exclude federally insured patients from patient assistance programs, presenters in the mini summit dedicated to patient assistance programs spent a considerable amount of time discussing the need for thorough assessments of the vendors who manage the programs. As one presenter commented, “part of that is looking at the capabilities of the vendor, what processes they have, do they have rules that align with your company’s policies and expectations, and do they have qualified and trained personnel to run these programs.” And as was highlighted, multiple vendors may be involved in different aspects of the programs. The internal and external training matrix can be complex for patient programs but identifying the appropriate level of training across all vendor personnel is the first step to ensuring continuing compliance.
Measure your company’s culture and look for opportunities to strengthen it.
One of the medical device summits featured a lively discussion of company culture as a driver for employee engagement. The conversation focused on the idea that culture is the driving force behind an organization’s approach to its business and everyone in that organization is responsible for maintaining that culture. As one presenter noted, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” It was a refreshing twist on the rules-based vs. values-based debate and at PharmaCertify, we absolutely agree that life sciences companies need to seek out opportunities to strengthen their ethical cultures – including through training. After all its in our mission statement: helping life sciences companies strengthen their compliance cultures and reduce risk through training.
When it comes to compliance, patients are the new HCPs.
Comments from panelists in the mini summit focused on patient advocacy organizations, their growing reach, and the attention they therefore require from a compliance standpoint. Even the smaller, niche organizations have a big voice with governmental agencies, so they shouldn’t be ignored. Is your compliance program, including your training curriculum, addressing patient advocacy to the appropriate level? The risk is real and as one presenter stressed, “they are the new HCPs.”
Social influencers need to be considered.
The AUSA Roundtable session concluded with a notable discussion on the influx of social influencers and the expectation for more enforcement related to these celebrities who sometimes hold sway over the purchasing habits of the American public. A recent situation involving celebrity, Kourtney Kardashian, was cited as an example of one influencer making public comments, which led to a warning letter being issued to the company by the FDA. Kardashian made a public appearance on a popular television show, as a recognized and paid spokesperson for the product, and made false or misleading efficacy and risk claims. As trivial as the topic of social influencers may seem, they need to be properly trained and prepared to appropriately speak about products.
I have only scratched the surface of the plethora of content presented during the during the Virtual 22nd Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Ethics and Compliance Congress. As with past conferences, the depth and expansiveness of topics covered was impressive and well-suited for newcomers to the life sciences compliance industry as well as experienced veterans. There was something for everyone.
PCF, the organizers, and all the presenters deserve a hearty congratulations and kudos for such a wide-ranging and informative conference. There remains no better resource for up-to-date best practices and advice than conferences like this one. Hopefully, the pandemic will be in our proverbial rear-view mirror this time next year and we’ll meet in person for the 23rd Annual Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Ethics and Compliance Congress and never have to deal with that “virtual” word in the title again.