The Business of Learning - learning ecosystems

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen a surge in interest from clients who are impacted by the Sunshine Act and need their employees to comply with this new law. Compliance initiatives always present some interesting challenges, but the Sunshine Act is an especially challenging one.

First, a little background about the Sunshine Act. The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, signed into law in March 2010, includes a section called the Physician Payment Sunshine Act (generally shortened to “Sunshine Act” or abbreviated as PPSA), which requires pharmaceutical, medical device, biotech, and medical product manufacturers and suppliers to report to Health and Human Services any “payment or other transfer of value” to physicians and hospitals.

We’ve found that the Sunshine Act has some interesting twists that make developing training more challenging:

  • Generic training won’t work – It’s very difficult for off-the-shelf training to effectively teach your employees what they need to know and do to comply with the Sunshine Act. Why? Compliance with the Sunshine Act varies depending on business, sales, and marketing practices, the state(s) a business operates in, the exact products/services they offer, and also factors within their customer’s business.

    All these factors combine to make it impossible to effectively train with generic programs because they contain too many if/then, if/then, if/then statements that confuse learners and could leave too much open to individual interpretation.

  • State laws have also changed – This new federal law is accompanied by changes in many state laws. Some states have changed their laws to align with the Sunshine Act and others have enacted laws that have requirements beyond the Sunshine Act.

    The bottom line is that companies need to make sure their employees understand and comply with the combined federal and state laws that are in force in the states where they operate. This can get very complex for a company who has sales representatives who cover multi-state territories. Since state laws may have changed, any Sunshine Act training effort must cover both the new federal law and the applicable changes to state laws.

  • Adding the reporting layer – As an extra twist, most Sunshine Act training programs may need to include a software training segment that shows employees how to properly report payments to providers. This training piece could range from simple to complex depending on the company’s decision about how these need to be reported.
  • The clock is ticking – There have been several starts/stops to the implementation of the Sunshine Act. I won’t go into the history here, the point is that the countdown has now resumed and companies need to have employees trained and systems ready very soon. It’s difficult to give exact timelines because state-specific requirements. On the Federal side, recording of payments of more than $10 is required starting August 1, 2013 and final reporting of payments made in 2013 is due on March 31, 2014. In any case, if your company is impacted by this major new law, it’s time to get rolling on the training effort if you haven’t already.

The Sunshine Act has presented us with some opportunities to help companies with an interesting business problem: Create effective training that supports compliance with a complicated set of inter-related state and federal laws. And, of course, we’re challenged to do what Fredcomm always does: Make the training as engaging as possible.

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