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Why Urgent Care Centers Should Offer Drug Testing

By Andrew David Easler, Esq.

Urgent care centers are well known for being the first place people turn to for quick medical assistance. When most people think of urgent care centers, they automatically assume that they only offer treatment for non-life-threatening medical conditions. However, urgent care centers can offer much more to the public as a valuable member of the medical community. As such, urgent care centers are an excellent location to offer drug testing services.

Public Safety

One of the most important reasons that drug testing should be offered in urgent care centers is availability for the public. Drug testing is an important testing service to ensure the safety and wellbeing of people in many different fields. While many people may not think of urgent care centers as testing centers, most do offer simple testing services, such as basic blood and urine tests. This makes them a prime location for drug testing to be made available.

While some people may not want to go to a drug testing lab or collection site and wait around, urgent care centers are very familiar with processing patients quickly and efficiently. Typically, urgent care centers are also strategically located in the community for easy accessibility. This means that they will be easy to find and visit without going too far out of the way. When companies find out that drug testing is available so readily and nearby, they will be more likely to implement drug testing. Studies have shown that companies with more stringent policies regarding drug use and more frequent randomized drug testing have a much lower rate of drug users.[1] This stands to reason, as employees using illicit substances will test positive and will be referred to treatment or those who are aware of the policies will be less likely to use drugs under the threat of violating company policy and possible termination.

Visibility

Urgent care centers fill a very specific role in the healthcare system today. When someone is in a life-threatening situation, they should visit an emergency room. When someone is simply trying to maintain a healthy routine, they typically visit their primary care physician. Urgent care centers fit somewhere between these two, filling the need for unscheduled medical needs. As urgent care centers are on the rise, many people are seeing the true value of making use of them. Still, the more people recognize the availability of these centers, the more people will be able to take care of their medical needs.

To promote public health knowledge and advertise the availability of their services, some urgent care centers also offer discounted drug testing rates to local employers. These companies get a discounted rate and their employees become more knowledgeable in the medical resources available in the community. Many companies recognize the value of having properly trained medical professionals administer these tests. In fact, studies have shown that drug test results and processes can be misinterpreted or poorly conducted by those who do not thoroughly understand the systems related to the specific test.[2] Having a medical license alone, however, does not qualify an individual to perform drug tests. For example, to conduct a drug test under United States Department of Transportation protocols, the collector must be specifically trained in a DOT Urine Specimen Collector course.[3]

Added Business

Urgent care centers recognize that much of the business of healthcare is unpredictable. There is no way to have a consistent flow of non-emergent, urgent medical needs in the community. Because of this, it is desirable for these centers to offer diverse options and alternative revenue sources to keep the business going. By offering drug testing, urgent care centers open themselves up to more business and allow themselves to stay busy even when their primary source of patients isn’t coming in.

Drug testing is not always one at a time. Instead, it is becoming increasingly common for a business to drug test large groups at once, such as when they hire a new wave of employees in a short time.[4] When they do this, it can be a very lucrative opportunity for centers that offer drug testing. It does not take much time but offers a quick and relatively simple method of generating revenue and raising awareness of the clinic in the community. The more people receiving drug testing services, the greater the likelihood that one or more of them will seek out additional services that are offered in urgent care centers.

How to Get Started

Get Trained

Urgent Care Centers seeking to implement a drug and alcohol testing program in their practice should research the applicable state and federal laws. Centers that have an existing relationship with local employers should inquire as to whether the employer would use the clinic for testing and, if so, what type of drug and alcohol tests would be needed.

For example, there are a variety of potential workplace testing services an employer may take advantage of at a local urgent care center:

  • DOT Urine Specimen Collection: This is one of the most common types of testing in North America encompassing testing programs for truckers under United States Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. Additionally, airlines are subject to DOT testing requirements under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, transit operators and bus drivers are subject to Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations, train and rail companies are subject to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations, pipeline workers and companies transporting hazardous materials are subject to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) regulations, and even certain private commercial vessels are subject to United States Coast Guard (USCG) regulations. All of these transportation-related companies must have certain “covered” employees tested under DOT regulations.
  • Non-DOT Urine Specimen Collection & Screening: These are drug tests on an employee’s urine under the authority of company policy and the testing protocols are typically subject to state, rather than federal, law. A course on this type of testing will include both the collection procedures and screening procedures, if rapid testing is not prohibited by state law.
  • DOT Breath Alcohol Testing: Employers subject to DOT drug and alcohol testing policies must conduct testing for the presence of both drugs and alcohol. Urine is the current modality for testing drugs, whereas breath is the primary modality for alcohol screening and confirmation testing.[5] To test for the presence of alcohol, the DOT regulations (and most workplace testing laws), require the use of an evidential breath testing device (EBT Device) by an individual trained on the applicable law and the use of the device, known as a Breath Alcohol Technician.
  • Hair Testing: Hair is a powerful tool in workplace drug testing programs that has the unique capability of detecting drug use for up to 90 days.
  • Saliva/Oral Fluid Testing: On the opposite end of the spectrum, saliva has become a popular testing modality for drugs because of its relatively short detection period. This has become an invaluable tool in states where marijuana use is legalized to help determine whether a positive test is more likely to be indicative of actual impairment at the time of the test rather than simply having the residual metabolites present in the employee’s system.

Set Up a Lab Contract

Fortunately, most urgent care centers have existing contracts with local or national laboratories for the testing of other samples, so once the staff is trained all the center has to do is contact the representative of a SAMHSA-certified laboratory and let them know which services they are qualified to offer from the above list. The laboratory will send most of the necessary supplies from requisition forms (also known as “Custody and Control Forms,” “CCFs” or “Chain of Custody Forms”), and collection kits.

Prepare the Center for Testing

Your urgent care center should be prepared for workplace drug testing by securing the restroom and preparing private areas for performing collection and testing. The methods necessary will be covered in the relevant courses you and your staff take to become qualified.

There are some other supplies that you may need that are not provided by the laboratory, including, but not limited to:

  • Tamper-evident tape
  • Alcohol Testing Forms (ATFs)
  • Evidential Breath Testing Device(s)
  • Rapid Drug Testing Kits/Cups (also known as Point of Care Test kits)
  • Blue Dye Tablets for toilets
  • Toilet hats

Set Prices & Market

  • Set your pricing model for your new services and let the local business community know you have added new drug testing services.
  • Set up contracts for repeat and consistent businesses. Monitor local purchasing boards for bids with local governments and larger corporations in the area for drug testing services.
  • Consider complimentary services such as DOT Physicals.

There is a lot to know about drug and alcohol testing in the workplace. The organization providing your drug testing qualification training should be there to assist you every step of the way and be available to answer related questions even after the training.

References:

 

[1] “Workplace Drug Testing and Worker Drug Use” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1955359/ [2] “Objective Testing- Urine and Other Tests” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4920965/ [3] See, 49 C.F.R. § 40.33. [4] “Workplace drug testing, different matrices different objectives.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22362574/ [5] Though, saliva is permitted for screening, but not confirmation testing.

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