November 15th, 2021 | Sterling

Drug Testing Delays Q&A with Nathan Anderson

What is currently happening with delays in drug testing?

The drug testing industry has been impacted by several factors over the last few months, causing delays in drug testing. Most notably, the underlying challenges from the US labor shortage crisis have led to staff shortages at many of the labs. This has impacted all steps in the drug testing process. These lab performance issues caused by a lack of staffing have been exacerbated by other circumstances like natural disasters and the significant increase in volume of testing because of ramped up hiring around the country.  Delays have varied from a day or two in some cases to several days in others. 

There have also been delays in printing and delivering CCFs due to the recent release of the new federal CCF forms, significantly increasing demand alongside supply chain challenges and labor shortages at the warehouses fulfilling the requests.

Who is impacted by these delays?

These delays impact anyone currently doing lab-based drug testing across all industries, which means it is impacting all types of employers. This includes employers that self-collect specimens and ship directly to labs as well as those that are using patient service centers or clinics for collection.

It is also impacting background screening providers like Sterling and other CRAs and third-party administrators who manage clinic and collection networks that are sending the drug testing specimens off to the labs.

How is Sterling helping clients get candidates to Day 1 even with these delays?

Sterling has been working very closely with our lab partners to track updates on these delays. When we initially started seeing performance numbers go down with slower turnaround times, we quickly inquired with our lab partners and learned of some of these challenges. We have weekly connections with our partners to understand what they are doing to resolve the issues, how they are progressing, and what the outlook is moving forward. The labs have been increasing hiring, adding additional shifts, adding overtime, and moving employees around between labs.

Along with staying in close communication with our lab partners, we are working with our clients to create practical solutions to mitigate lab delays, including the following:  

  1. Rolling out instant testing. This can be done at on-site at the company location or at patient service centers/clinics and can mitigate lab delays because only non-negatives or inconclusive specimens are sent off to labs, which is a small percentage of the overall tests.
  2. Moving forward with the candidate hiring process without waiting for a drug screen. The candidate can go through the initial background check with a criminal and employment education verification, and then they can circle back to the drug screening process at a later point. This allows for all other steps to be completed upfront instead of waiting for the completion of a drug test to move onto the next background check steps.

Have questions or concerns? Please reach out to your client success manager or contact us by email: or phone: 800-899-2271

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