Rapid-turnaround drug test eScreen speeds hiring process

Printed: January 7, 2002

By Cate Terwilliger, Special to the Denver Post. Source: The Denver Post, Denver, Colorado.

It looks like the lowliest of workplace fixtures - an office coffeemaker - but a new rapid-turnaround drug screen is quietly revolutionizing the way employers make hires.

Dozens of Front Range businesses already are using eScreen’s Drugs of Abuse Screening System, which last spring became the first instant, automated method of workplace drug testing approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“eScreen’s the newest thing on the market and it’s a hit,” says Kiana VanDiver, a technician and supervisor who works at one of Concentra’s five Denver-area clinics. “It started out with a few national accounts, and it has spread rapidly.” Her clinic hasn’t used it a full year yet, she said.

Marketed by an Overland Park, Kan., firm, eScreen allows employers to obtain negative - or drug-free - test results within minutes, rather than the industry standard of 48 to 72 hours.

“That’s huge if you need to make an expedited hiring decision, or are looking at a post-accident (workplace) situation,” says Sarah Mayer, marketing coordinator for Stat America, an Evergreen firm that sets up nationwide corporate drug-testing programs. Although 95 percent of the more than 50 million drug screens performed nationwide each year prove negative, conventional testing has kept companies - and potential employees - waiting.

Urine specimens typically are collected at one site, then shipped to a far-flung laboratory for testing, accompanied by a long paper chain of custody. Samples usually are tested for five illegal substances: marijuana, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine - or PCP - and amphetamines.

Like instant testing kits already on the market, eScreen provides immediate results. But at a cost only slightly higher than conventional drug screens ($20 to $40), it offers additional benefits some businesses find invaluable: an encrypted Web component that allows clients to check results quickly online, and a computerized reader that eliminates human involvement - and potential error - in interpreting results.

The system employs a specially designed plastic specimen cup with a lid that contains urinalysis strips. A plunger transfers the required amount of urine onto the strips; the reader then uses optical technology to determine whether results are negative, a process that takes 2 to 8 minutes. Questionable samples are forwarded for conventional laboratory testing. eScreen has been a bit hit with employers, including retail giant Wal-Mart. The system also has been installed at more than 200 Concentra Health Services clinics nationwide, including 14 along the Front Range. About 100 Colorado businesses use the clinics for their workplace drug testing.

“Our system addresses all the barriers once surrounding instant drug testing,” eScreen founder Murray Lappe said. “It’s an important new technology that will have a significant impact on employment screening.”