A robust training management policy is key for pharma companies to effectively provide general skills, sales and compliance training to staff and keep external audiences such as Health Care Professionals (HCPs), the press, investors and other relevant audiences updated on the company’s scientific research advancements, clinical trial data, new product/drug launches etc.
As a common practice, pharma companies employ a variety of training tools depending on the subject matter and target audience type. A common or standard tool to disseminate information to both internal as well as external audiences are PowerPoint-based slide decks.
Although slide decks are relatively simple to develop, they have disadvantages in terms of their limited interactivity (which has an impact on audience engagement) and the inability to provide real time learning outcomes data.
What is a Learning Management System?
A Learning Management System (LMS), also known as a Learning Experience Platform (LXP), is an e-learning application with the functionality to integrate and host a range of individual training tools such as slide decks, videos, documents, game-based learning modules, interactive assignments, community discussion boards and much more, providing a rich and interactive learning experience for users.
Depending on the size of a pharmaceutical company, they will typically have a portfolio of drugs either in the pipeline, at various clinical trial stages and/or already in the market. These multiple facets of the product life cycle require a flow of information to the appropriate stakeholders that’s delivered seamlessly and, more importantly, at the right time.
An LMS is a single platform training solution for pharmaceutical companies to house, deliver and track all of its training content. It is an ideal tool for training internal teams (sales, HR/compliance, R&D) and external audiences e.g. HCPs, investors etc. with the ability to host multiple learning modules for each product, drug or medical device type.
Permission-based access for individuals or a group of users can be created, ensuring that appropriate training for the right audience is provided with or without subject matter overlap, depending on the company’s requirements.
A fun and high recall learning environment
LMS is known for its high interactivity and removes the ‘boring’ from a typical training session, giving the learner the convenience of accessing training modules remotely on any device (desktop or mobile).
Another big feature of LMS-based learning is the concept of ‘gamification’.
Gamification in e-learning uses game-based elements such as puzzles, trivia, leaderboards, individual and team-based competitions etc. to drive learner engagement levels, also allowing for users to better retain and recall the information acquired.
An LMS/LXP also allows users (within the specific course or module) to communicate with each other via a ‘community-board’ plug-in creating a social learning environment and encouraging robust discussions on study topics.
Gamification and community discussion board features provide an informal environment for learners to participate in and enjoy the learning process!
LMS is easy and functional for trainers and administrators
Apart from conducting interactive webinar sessions, trainers (as well as the administrators) of the LMS platform can take advantage of the below functionalities:
- Monitoring an individual’s progress within each module
- Receiving real-time feedback from users and responding to them
- Gathering learning outcomes data and metrics to better manage course catalogs and modules to deliver a more targeted and engaging learning experience
- Personalized evaluation tools such as quizzes, group discussions, surveys and much more
- Customized report widgets are shown on the trainer’s dashboard
- Better convenience with the availability of Android- and iOS-based LMS apps
- ‘Offline mode’ functionality allows trainers to have offline access to content that users have previously viewed when online
Administering an LMS platform
Post development and deployment of the LMS application, the client (pharma company) may decide to either administer the platform internally or outsource this aspect to the service provider.
An LMS administrator is able to:
- Add, edit, or delete trainee information
- Add, edit, or delete trainer information
- Add an entry such as course subject, session and calendar updates
- View log-in trail of every user (trainer and trainee)
- View logs of user activity
- Manage course modules
- Manage Users & User types
Besides the ease of administering an LMS, there is also a significant cost savings benefit for the company. Its centralized and online nature reduces travel time, facilities costs, design and print charges of slide sets etc. for the company.
Why use a medical communications agency to develop an LMS for pharma?
Unlike other industries, pharma is quite unique in many ways. The industry has a stringent safety and efficacy determination process and thus the business model is highly dependent on accurate management of data and information.
Unless a pharmaceutical company has a robust internal technology team, outsourcing the development of an LMS-based training platform to an external agency comes with risks associated with the lack of knowledge of medical communications and an absence of SOPs in this area.
A medical communications agency with software development capabilities is able provide the below additional benefits:
- In-depth knowledge of various diseases and their related therapeutic areas
- Working experience or background in medical affairs, market access, health economics and regulatory areas
- Specialized medical writing experience and knowledge of key medical verbiage
- A good understanding of pharmacology and/or toxicology
- Established SOPs in healthcare training and communications.
LMS development: Steps and costs
Once the client requirement has been determined, the project passes through three broad phases:
Development: The development phase includes a thorough planning session to allocate resources and establish time frames that align to the project requirement. In general, the phase will also include the initial testing of the software in the so-called ‘pre-alpha’ stage.
Testing: The main testing phase known as ‘alpha’ involves
- Test planning
- Test prototype design and development
- Test environment design and set-up
- Test execution
- Test closure
Release: The release or ‘beta release’ is a ‘soft’ launch of the software for limited client use and this phase is used to gather feedback on performance of the software in a real-life scenario.
The development and successful execution of an LMS is typically a long-term project with a range of iterations and updates required along the way until a final version is established. The software development agency would recommend accomplishing the project in shorter ‘sprints’ based on completing priority functionalities first. The billing is also done on a per sprint basis, rather than having one set quote. This allows both the service provider (the agency) and the client the flexibility to adjust as the project matures.
Typically, each sprint is a 2-week period, where the service provider implements an agreed number of features, within a certain number of hours, at a fixed hourly rate.
The estimated number of hours per sprint is 30. Tasks undertaken within the 30 hours are flexible. For example, it can include development, bug fixes and design work. Essentially, it would be as if the pharma company was hiring an in-house team, with one crucial difference – they will have the capability of a highly experienced medical communications agency on board, with the added bonus of being cost effective.
Depending on the complexity, an LMS development project for pharma will include the below personnel:
- Project manager
- Medical writer and/or editor
- UI/UX designer
- Front-end web developer
- Back-end web developer
- Information security
- Test engineer
Below are approximate costs:
- Euros €600 + taxes per/hour
- Euros €18,000 + taxes per sprint
It is important to keep in mind both the price and deliverables mentioned are very broad estimates and could vary significantly depending on the agency and client, the exact nature of the project and its requirements.