Recently, I sent out an email to my industry colleagues bemoaning how little innovation I was seeing in our training and development world.
Which led to an interesting reply from Glen Drummond (Senior Director, Learning and Development, Depomed), who mentioned something new they had initiated to better equip their sales reps. Depomed is a leader in the commercialization of therapies for central nervous system (CNS) conditions including pain.
Intrigued, and already planning to be in the San Francisco Bay area for another client, I decided to visit Glen and interview him.
The business challenge was this: how to more deeply equip field reps (and managers) with clinical expertise in Pain Management arena. This is a common challenge in many therapeutic areas – not only is it no longer easy to arrange preceptorships, but time out of field for advanced levels of training is increasingly resisted.
Enter the AAPM Foundation (American Academy of Pain Medicine, which is devoted to optimizing the health of patients in pain by advancing the practice and the specialty of pain medicine).
It turns out that one of Glen’s senior executives at Depomed had been talking to the business development director at a convention with the Foundation, and the question arose about how to utilize some clinical/video assets that AAPM had already been developing. Once Glen was pulled into the discussion, the idea quickly evolved into a strategic alliance between Depomed’s L&D group and AAPM that would be a true win-win.
Depomed worked with the AAPM to develop a 12-module distance-learning program, consisting of archived videos and webinars that were the equivalent of physician-level clinical learning. The case study format is used extensively in this program. Each module has a required test at the end, and there is a summative exam that also must be passed at the end of the 6-month course. All results are tracked in the company LMS.
The webinars are led by KOLs and are not “dumbed-down” in the least – the learning is quite challenging and the exams are demanding (even Glen failed the first exam because he was trying to get away with multi-tasking while taking it!). The testimony from reps, managers, and directors who have completed the program thus far have stated their confidence level in the field has soared, and their physician interactions have improved, once they have had a chance to absorb this kind of practical, high-level knowledge.
Those who successfully complete the course – and over 300 field sales and leadership people have done so in 2016 – receive certificates of completion from both AAPM and Depomed, and are differentiated from other reps in the pain space by having the AAPM logo on their business cards.
What I like about this program, which now will be embedded in the normal course of Depomed training as a Phase II curriculum (following initial sales training of multiple phases), is that it does not require any time out of the field. Glen estimates that a motivated rep should be able to successfully complete the program with about 2-3 hours of dedicated time per month, without leaving their territory. And since the program is pulsed over 6 months, there is the opportunity for more effective absorption of the material with application of the learning.
One tenured rep remarked that he gained more clinical knowledge through this program than he had acquired in 10 years out in the field.
Now that all the material has been developed and archived, with only a modest amount of ongoing expense, the program can continue to provide value with (mostly) administrative support going forward.
Kudos to Glen and his colleagues at Depomed and AAPM for having the imagination, and the initiative, to pursue this joint venture. I have to believe that other commercial organizations can use this idea as a template for enriching their advanced clinical training in the years to come.