The Benefits of Remote Drug Testing

The Benefits of Remote Drug Testing

By Tricia O'Connor

The typical drug testing process involves a job applicant going to a laboratory or drug testing facility to have the test conducted on-site and overseen by a professional technician. However, COVID-19 caused major disruptions to the lab-based drug testing process.

Remote saliva-based drug testing offers a faster, safer, and more cost-effective alternative.

Over the past month, EBI has been exploring how COVID-19 has affected pre-employment drug testing procedures. We’ve discussed basic collection methods and best practices for workers returning to the office. Here, we examine the benefits of remote drug testing for employers and candidates.

The Trouble with Lab-based Drug Testing

Lab-based tests occur when a specimen (urine, hair, oral fluid) is sent to a lab for processing, or the specimen is collected at a lab. Results are usually available after 2-3 days. Lab-based tests are still considered the standard in drug testing, especially among safety-sensitive positions, and are required in Federal and Department of Transportation (DOT) testing.

However, lab-based drug testing can be inconvenient and invasive for candidates, and it is also more complicated and expensive for employers.

“A company would save on average about $20-$25 per collection that the clinic would charge if an employer did the collection themselves,” says Heather Horn, EBI Vice President of Drug Testing, Occupational Healthcare and Wellness Program.

COVID-19’s economic impact highlighted many of these pre-existing issues. Some labs and facilities closed (or reduced hours) during the pandemic making it extremely difficult to find appointments. The ripple effect was a backlog of job applicants waiting to get drug tested, and then sacrificing their health and safety to wait in long lines once they were able to visit a lab. Employers also began hiring more candidates remotely, so they were looking for instant drug tests to onboard workers quickly.

Rapid Remote Drug Testing

Throughout the pandemic, instant or rapid drug tests have become a more attractive alternative for employers who want to hire quickly, safely, and improve their candidate experience. An instant test provides you with results in minutes at the point of collection. Instant tests typically use urine or oral fluid (saliva). Rapid tests don’t have as many regulations attached to them but can deliver a “negative” or “non-negative” result quickly. If speed is the name of the game in your drug testing efforts, and you’re not regulated by any government bodies, then this may be a good fit for you. It is also less expensive than lab-based tests. 

Here are the main benefits of implementing rapid remote saliva drug testing into your drug-free workplace policy:

  1. Accurate – Oral fluid testing can be done instantly through remote video observation and it can tell you if your candidate has used any illegal drugs in the last 36 hours. Oral fluid testing is the only drug testing method not prone to cheating as all oral fluid collections are fully observable from start to finish. There is no opportunity for a donor to switch samples or falsify information because the collector is always watching.
  2. Private – Oral fluid collections can be taken anywhere, unlike urine or blood testing which needs a certified professional to administer them and oversee candidates completing them. Because the donor doesn’t require the privacy of a bathroom stall for a urine test, or the need to enter a lab for a blood test, the entire saliva collection – including opening the package, inserting the swab into their mouth, timing the process, inserting the swab into the collection vial, sealing the vial, and inserting the materials into the shipping envelope – can be observed remotely.
  3. Cost-Effective – Remote drug testing saves employers money because there is no need for applicants to use a clinic to conduct the collection. Eliminating a clinic cost can save employers between $20-$25 per collection.
  4. Virtual Integrity – Saliva drug testing can be collected virtually, using remote video observation, ensuring the validity and integrity of the sample, and protecting the safety of the donor and collector from any COVID-19 exposure. The remote collection can happen over any virtual telehealth or video-observed software like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Skype. Allowing remote drug testing demonstrates an employer’s concern for the health and wellbeing of employees and candidates.
  5. Convenient – Saliva collections can occur in a variety of locations, which makes them way more convenient than drug tests that must be collected in a lab. Your applicants will save time and money being able to complete their drug test at home, rather than wasting time traveling to a lab and waiting in line. In times of pandemic, remote drug tests are not only more convenient, but they’re also safer for applicants because people don’t have to risk exposure to illness.
  6. Better Marijuana Detection – Oral fluid drug tests detect marijuana more effectively overall than urine tests and are much more effective at detecting recent drug use which is critical for safety-sensitive testing. One study reports saliva drug tests showed marijuana positivity increased nearly 75%, from 5.1% in 2013 to 8.9% in 2016, in the general U.S. workforce.

Find the Right Solution with EBI

Remote drug testing via oral fluid is the next evolution in continuing a cost-effective, non-invasive, and safe drug testing program for work-from-home employees. EBI’s Intercept Oral Fluid Drug Test is an easy-to-use kit that allows you to get a sample safely without putting anyone at risk. It’s an excellent choice for pre-employment, random, post-accident testing, and work from home testing.

remote drug testing oral fluid drug test

Maintaining a truly safe and drug-free workplace as the pandemic ends requires quick, efficient, and cost-effective pre-employment drug testing, background checks, and even COVID-19 testing. The future of workplace drug testing will be less about impairment and more about ensuring a clean workplace, a healthy workforce, and drug-free working conditions. 

Still have questions about drug testing? EBI experts are here to help. Contact our team and we’ll get right back to you.

About the Author

Tricia O'Connor

Tricia O'Connor

Writer. Digital marketer. Storyteller. An award-winning writer and editor, Tricia O'Connor is the Marketing Content Manager at EBI. Tricia worked as a broadcast and print journalist for nearly two decades writing and producing programming for high-profile networks like ESPN Radio, History Channel, and Hallmark Channel, as well as contributing editorial work to publications nationwide. Tricia joined the EBI marketing team in 2019 and is responsible for content strategy, development, and engagement. Tricia earned a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and is a proud undergraduate alumna of Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

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