By Adam Hall, C-SAPA
Beacon Occupational Health and Safety Services
As technology improves, so does efficiency. Today, many store checkout stands use electronic systems to expedite purchases and improve the overall shopping experience. It was only a matter of time before this technology caught on in the drug-testing industry.
In April 2015, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities approved the use of the electronic Custody and Control Form (eCCF). Although it has taken an extensive amount of time for laboratories to obtain the necessary approval to use the eCCF, in 2018 we are seeing multiple labs using eCCF software and improving the drug testing process in a number of ways.
Prior to April 2015, all DOT&PF drug tests were completed using a five-part carbon copy form. The collectors or donors hand-wrote much of the information on these forms at the time of the collection. This manual process frequently led to errors or inaccuracies due to sloppy handwriting or misinformation from a poorly maintained database. Additionally, employers and Medical Review Officers, or MRO service providers, were not receiving copies of completed Custody and Control Forms in a timely manner. Electronic collection software has been around for years and frequently has been used in collection sites for all non-regulated testing. The DOT&PF recognized the benefits of using the eCCF and decided to change to its regulations.
There are many benefits to using eCCFs. Most notably for employers, eCCFs offer faster turnaround times for results, fewer collection site errors and improved overall efficiency. Most eCCF software includes required fields, so collections cannot be completed without entering the required information. This ensures employers receive results with accurate and complete information.
In addition to employer benefits, eCCFs streamline other areas of the drug-testing process. Medical Review Officers are unable to release a result until a donor-signed copy of a CCF is received. This requirement often holds up the resulting process due to collection sites failing to send a copy of the CCF or because the MRO contact information is incorrect on the CCF. With eCCFs, copies are automatically transmitted to the MRO office, and MRO contact information is updated automatically when changes are introduced into the system. This same automation also benefits employers when account information is changed.
A final benefit eCCFs offer is the dramatic decrease in paperwork management. Prior to eCCFs, paper CCFs had to be ordered any time information was updated. This led to high levels of waste and increased cost as paper CCFs had to be shipped to various locations. Electronic CCFs eliminate the need to print new forms and have those forms shipped to collection sites.
The drug testing industry was well overdue for a change to leverage the technology available today. The eCCF is a significant step in the right direction as we are beginning to see fewer errors, improved efficiency, and overall improvements to the drug-testing process. Employers will need to make few changes for this new service, as they will likely see the benefits of the eCCF instantaneously. More and more labs are continuing to seek the necessary approval to implement their own electronic collection solution, which is laying the groundwork for a new collection era.