Third Party Administration (TPA) for Drug Testing Programs

We get the questions often – what is a TPA? Why do I need a TPA for my drug testing program?  Why can’t I purchase drug testing directly from the lab?

This post will answer these questions regarding a TPA for administration of drug testing programs.

The TPA or Third-Party Administrator is often called a C/TPA – Consortium/Third Party Administrator.  This term comes from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations 49 CFR Part 40.  The word consortium applies to management of a random testing pool consisting of employees from multiple companies.  Such as companies with 1, 2, 4 or 10 employees.  DOT regulations require companies with 1 driver to be in a consortium as described. So, a consortium is a grouping of the employees from many companies and there no maximum number of employees that can be in a consortium random testing pool.

What is a TPA?

The TPA is a company that helps employers manage a drug and alcohol testing program.  There are a variety of services that the TPA may provide for employers. 

– Sell drug testing to employers– Manage random testing program
– Review or set up drug free workplace policy– Provide employee education & supervisor training when needed
– Set up Lab and MRO accounts– Assistance with MIS reports when needed
– Obtain CCF Forms & Supplies– Update customers on regulations 
– Assign collector or collection site– Maintain liaison between Collection site, Lab, MRO & customer
– Receive and transmit results– Combined billing
– Maintain records– Provide access to Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
– Provide various reporting as requested– Ongoing customer service
– Troubleshoot missing or abnormal results (fatal flaw, canceled test, etc)
– Answer questions

Many times, the TPA is simply coordinating test ordering, specimen collection, lab testing, MRO review, receiving and storing of drug test results.

Why do I need a TPA for my drug testing program?  

Using a TPA is much more efficient then trying to do it all yourself.  And it does not cost any more money. A professional TPA has a web portal connecting collection sites, laboratories, medical review officers (MRO) all together electronically.  You can electronically order your drug tests for your applicants and employees and you can receive the drug test results via e-mail or by log in to the web portal.  This is an efficient process with fast turnaround time.

The TPA is knowledgeable and professional and can help you with any issues or problems. A big part of the TPA business is to provide customer service to the employer. Without the TPA you will have many contacts and be going around in many different directions to get help and service.  

The TPA also coordinates and manages any required random testing you may need.  This can include enrollment into a consortium if you are a smaller company. 

The TPA provides you with a professional service and is very knowledgeable. The TPA will advise you on Federal regulations, State laws and best practices for drug testing. With the services of a TPA you can avoid exposure to liability in your drug testing program.

Why can’t I purchase drug testing directly from the lab?

You can purchase lab testing directly from the lab.  This can be sort of a complex and timely process.  Typically, labs sell directly to very large employers like maybe Home Depot, Walmart, or Amazon.  Typically even these large companies utilize a TPA for efficiency and cost savings. 

If you are able to purchase lab services direct from the lab, you will still need arrangements for ordering the test, where will the specimen be collected, who is the MRO, how will you get final reviewed results and who will provide customer service.  Laboratories do a good job at receiving specimens, testing, and reporting to the MRO.   Laboratories are not equipped to provide all the other necessary parts of the drug testing program. If you look at the chart above listing the TPA services, think about does a major laboratory have the capability to provide all these services?

Major laboratories do not have capability to set up accounts for small and medium size employers.  The Labs rely on the TPA’s to sell and service small and medium size employers for their drug testing needs.

Check out our detailed pages for Consortium/Third party Administrator (C/TPA) services.

TPA - C/TPA and Service Agents
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