Why Random Drug Testing Makes Sense for Healthcare Employers

Why Random Drug Testing Makes Sense for Healthcare Employers
Senior Director of Marketing

While mandatory random employee drug testing is common in safety-sensitive positions, the vast majority of healthcare professionals who are responsible for patient care are not subject to any kind of monitoring for substance abuse. 

Drug testing remains an essential part of workplace safety, providing numerous benefits to employers, regardless of industry. While random drug testing provides an extra layer of safety, it is not very common in the healthcare industry.

In a new PreCheck white paper, Drug Testing in the Healthcare Industry: Why Random Testing Makes Sense for Employers, subject matter expert Nina M. French discusses how random drug testing can provide continual peace of mind for healthcare employers to ensure patient and staff safety.

Whether your organization is considering implementing a random drug testing program, here’s a quick overview of this emerging trend and why it makes sense for healthcare employers. 

The OIG Calls for Mandatory Random Drug Testing in Healthcare

In 2014, Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson and Erika T. Broadhurst of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (DHHS-OIG), published a column in the New York Times discussing the agency’s position on random drug testing. Citing the unfortunate case of David Kwiatkowski, a medical technician and prescription-drug addict who left a trail of 45 unexplained hepatitis C cases over the course of a decade, hospitals are not protecting patients from drug tampering.

The OIG believes hospitals can do more to protect patients. Beyond improved security such as surveillance of drug storage areas, the OIG calls for a step further. “We believe hospitals should be required to perform random drug tests on all [healthcare] workers with access to drugs,” Levinson and Broadhurst state in the column. “The tests should be comprehensive enough to screen for fentanyl and other commonly abused drugs and must keep up with evolving drug abuse patterns.”

The Prevalence of Substance Abuse in Healthcare

According to research, healthcare professionals are highly susceptible drug and substance abuse. In 2014, USA TODAY reported that an average of 103,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians and health care aides a year were abusing or dependent on illicit drugs, according to data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “An estimated one in 10 practitioners will fall into drug or alcohol abuse at some point in their lives, mirroring the general population,” USA TODAY reports.

In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, researchers found that self-medication was a leading reason for misusing prescription medications among the 55 physicians of the study. Recreational use, however, was also cited as an important factor by the study.

Random Drug Testing: An Emerging Trend for Healthcare

Although some hospitals have started random drug testing to identify doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals with substance abuse problems, it is still not an industry standard at this time. Both regulators and researchers have recognized the drug abuse problem in healthcare and have endorsed random drug testing as a solution for ensuring both patient and staff safety.

Considering implementing a random drug testing program at your healthcare organization? Download our new white paper on random drug testing for healthcare employers to learn how to get started with designing your program.