Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Test Customers Demand More Tests, More Results, Faster Than Ever: Driven by Growing Demand, Firms like Avee Laboratories Invest Heavily in New Facilities and Technology

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Test Customers Demand More Tests, More Results, Faster Than Ever: Driven by Growing Demand, Firms like Avee Laboratories Invest Heavily in New Facilities and Technology

Article excerpt

Today, more than ever, demand for drug testing continues to grow due to many factors: the proliferation of drugs subject for abuse, the creativity (or desperation) of abusers, the impact of abuse in the workplace and society, the rising costs associated with drug abuse treatment, and the growing desire of employers and lawmakers to deter or prevent abuse.

Nationwide, the rise in drug testing demand has been matched by the growth in funds made available to pay for it. Here's why: Drug testing is now recognized as a tool for implementing the National Drug Control Strategy. Drug addiction is now recognized as a national epidemic. And, addiction treatment is now covered due to the implementation of insurance parity. So, both public and private insurers have made drug testing a covered service.

The state of Florida provides two regional examples of the factors that drive drug testing's growth. First, it's been on the front lines of a battle against prescription drug abuse, trying to curtail the damage wrought by regional "pill mills" that flooded the market with cheap opioid pain medications. Second, it's the largest state yet to require that adults who apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families undergo (and pass) drug testing to qualify for benefits.

Not surprisingly, in 2008, Florida became the home of one of the newest and fastest-growing drug-testing facilities--Avee Laboratories (Clearwater). On a recent visit to Avee's headquarters, which is already in the midst of relocating to a larger nearby facility, I saw firsthand how the drug testing industry is scaling up to make secure, precise, and individualized drug testing available with the kind of repeatability and precision one might see in a highly advanced manufacturing organization.

At present, Avee processes some 25,000 samples per month, with hundreds arriving from around the nation not only to its Clearwater location, but to a newly opened lab in Massachusetts. Brian Slattery, an Avee vice president, explains that about one-third of the samples are from individuals involved in inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment, while the rest are from individuals being monitored for their ongoing use of controlled substances for management of chronic pain. So, third-party payments are the rule.

Given the demographics of these individuals, Slattery says Avee "expects to see a lot of positives" from initial screening tests and, like many competing labs in the region, performs a lot of confirmation testing. Confimation testing involves the use of a more sensitive test method to validate instant or screening test results. Instead of a simple "yes/no" result, confirmation returns a quantified value for the substance in question. He explains that the design and technology adopted in Avee's Clearwater lab was shaped by customer demand for fast, detailed confirmation test reports.

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While Avee depends on its back-room technology for precise results, the credibility and reliability of its test process are maintained by CLIA-regulated, COLA-accredited processes that govern requirements for lab inspections; sample custody, handling, and storage; quality assurance; equipment calibration, and other factors. The chain of custody for each sample begins at receiving, where sample identifying data and content are verified and each labeled, coded sample is divided into two portions.

One portion, a parent sample, proceeds to the test lab. The other, a control sample, is transported to direct to storage. Once it enters the lab, the parent sample is placed in an automated sampling system, which automatically extracts, codes, and prepares smaller "child" samples. …

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