The 5-part Chain of Custody form (CCF) is used throughout the workplace drug testing process. It explains how a drug testing specimen should be handled, and documents this process. The CCF tracks the specimen from the time it is collected until the time it arrives at the laboratory for testing.

An eCCF is the electronic version of the traditional paper form. The Department of Transportation (DOT) authorized the use of the electronic version from April 2015.

When making the switch to the eCCF from the traditional paper version, it is first useful to know that there are many aspects that remain unchanged. After understanding the benefits of switching to the eCCF, there are a few important steps to follow that will help ensure a seamless changeover.

Elements That Remain Unchanged

Using the eCCF simply offers a different method of collecting and transmitting information during the workplace drug testing process.

No new or different information is required with the eCCF. For example:

  • The type of records remain unchanged
  • The length of time those records must be kept remains the same
  • There is no change to confidentiality or security requirements throughout the process
  • Collection and documentation procedures are the same as before, albeit using an electronic form

How To Make the Switch to the eCCF

In preparation for making the switch to the eCCF, it is crucial to understand the steps required to help ensure a seamless changeover. Here are some important considerations:

1. Understand the benefits compared with using the traditional paper form

It is first important to understand why it's advantageous to switch to the eCCF. Within any company, the key personnel involved in the workplace drug testing process should have a clear understanding of the benefits. These include the employer and the Medical Review Officer (MRO).

Benefits of the eCCF include:

  • A reduced chance of human error. Handwriting isn't used with the eCCF, so there is less margin for error when reading and interpreting information on the form
  • The potential to save time throughout the drug testing process and achieve a faster turnaround time overall. The reduction in human error outlined in the previous point is one possible avenue for saving time. There is also a reduction in the time required for manual data entry, and copies of the form do not need to be faxed to the MRO
  • The opportunity for the company to save money as a result of the time saved
  • Implementation of the eCCF offers a "greener" option due to the reduction in paper use
  • A reduced need for paper storage, and therefore less physical space used for storing documents
  • The electronic nature of the eCCF allows for live-time tracking of the specimen, and tests can be ordered online
  • A more streamlined process in general. For example, with the eCCF, only one identifying number (the specimen identification number) is required. With the traditional CCF, several barcodes were required throughout various stages in the process

[Find out more about the benefits of switching to the eCCF in "How does eCCF affect workplace DOT drug and alcohol testing?"]

2. Check that the drug testing site is set up to use the eCCF

Once the benefits of switching to the eCCF are understood, the next step is to check that the drug testing facility is already set up to use the eCCF. Assuming that they are, the facility will be able to supply the required electronic forms.

3. Make sure you are using an approved drug testing laboratory

The way the eCCF is used will vary between laboratories. First, it's important to check that your drug testing laboratory has been approved by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The laboratory or its eCCF provider will specify any procedures that must be followed with the eCCF, and also any information about equipment that may be needed.

Although the use of the eCCF reduces the requirement for paper, there may be some paperwork requirements that have been established by the laboratory. For example, it may be necessary to print one or more copies of the eCCF.

4. Ensure appropriate preparation for any personnel involved in the process

Training on using the eCCF should be offered by the drug testing provider. Each person who is involved in the drug testing collection process should understand any procedures that their role entails, which are different to the collection process using the paper form.

For example, the MRO must know how to review specimen results using the eCCF. Collectors at specimen sites must also be trained to carry out the collection using eCCF procedures.

5. Ensure that all systems are ready for the changeover

Drug testing collection sites must be given access to the testing laboratory. Their online systems must be integrated with each other to allow for a seamless process.

Your company's internal computer system must be set up so that it is able to receive and share eCCF data. The eCCF process should be tested before implementation in order to highlight any glitches in the system.

6. Ensure that security and confidentiality are treated in the same way as they were with the traditional forms

Standards for security and confidentiality remain unchanged. Since there is less paperwork, there may only be a small volume of documentation that is required to be kept secure in its physical form (for example, if copies of the eCCF need to be printed and stored).

As is the case with the traditional form, only authorized personnel are permitted access to drug testing records. Therefore, with the implementation of online systems, extra computer security such as password protection may need to be established.

Ready To Make the Switch?

Overall, the benefits of switching to the eCCF are many. The process to make the switch can be relatively smooth and hassle-free when systems are aligned between the drug testing facility, company, and the testing laboratory. The personnel involved must also understand any changes to the process and how those changes affect them.