DEA Screening: What is it, Who Needs it & How Does it Work?

Screening employees and potential hires is an important step in maintaining quality service and protecting oneself against federal law infringement. One of the areas that hospitals, credentialing offices, and medical facilities often require is DEA screening. Below we will elaborate upon this important part of the screening process.

Who Is the DEA?

The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is a branch of the US federal government that works exclusively with drug regulations and enforcement in an effort to curtail substance abuse, trafficking, smuggling, manufacturing, and distribution. The administration and handling of controlled substances such as medications that are regularly handled within medical facilities and services also fall under the DEA’s jurisdiction, as do the employees that handle and administer these substances.

Any healthcare provider in such a role (a medical practitioner, optometrist, pharmacist, dentist, or veterinarian for example), requires DEA registration and is assigned a unique DEA registration number. This number provides a license to administer, research, manufacture, or dispense such controlled substances. In addition to the healthcare providers, the DEA register also lists legal manufacturers, distributors, importers, and exporters of such substances. This registration is a requirement by the federal government, as is compliance with specified regulations.

 

What Is DEA Screening?

DEA screening is comprised of three different screening processes. The most basic level is simply screening against the DEA Registrants list. The second level of screening that is available to organizations is cross-referencing against current or previous DEA criminal Cases Against Doctors or other healthcare professionals.

Finally, there is DEA Registrants Actions screening. This is the process of checking any health professional, manufacturer, distributor, pharmacies, and administering, dispensing, or prescribing agents against the DEA’s registration database to not only ensure that they have a valid and updated DEA registration number granting them legal permission to facilitate those actions, but that no complaints or legal issues have been filed against them in the past. The latter two screening processes, checking to see that these entities are not under DEA investigation and have no prior DEA convictions or pending lawsuits is an essential part of any healthcare provider’s basic evaluation during the hiring and employment process.

How Does the DEA Investigate Doctors?

The DEA provides a public list of DEA investigations currently being conducted, resolved DEA cases, DEA arrests, and a general DEA watch list of cases against doctors that have been charged with substance abuse or misuse of controlled substances. There are many cases against doctors that have required administrative actions taken against registered DEA doctors for illegal drug trafficking and falsifying prescriptions and records. The result of being found guilty by the DEA for doctors, pharmacists, and other medical practitioners is the revocation of their registration with the DEA. Once revoked, a DEA license can never be reinstated.

What are the DEA Controlled Substance Requirements?

While the facility or organization (such as hospital or medical service) may not directly be registered with the DEA, several of the regulations set out by this department are still applicable to such entities. The guidelines listed below must be adhered to conscientiously to ensure no liability in the event of mishandled substances. The requirements include:

  • Managing the controlled substance in the manner specified by the DEA regulations
  • Tracking inventory and supplies
  • Organizing and maintaining strict records of inventory
  • Enforcing strict security measures to avoid abuse or misuse
  • Properly disposing of any unused or exposed controlled substance either by destroying the substance or by delivering it back to a reverse distributor

Security measures include keeping controlled substances in a locked and unmovable cabinet, with keys kept with the authorized personnel only, and adhering to strict form procedures in the event of a loss or theft of a controlled substance.

How Can Hospitals Use a DEA Registration Number?

It should be noted that there are instances in which an individual employee may utilize a larger entity’s DEA registration number when acting on its behalf. For example, an intern, physician, or resident may use a hospital’s DEA registration number to administer, handle, or dispense controlled substances while working in the service of that institution. However, the larger entity is required to do a DEA arrest search and check the individual is legally allowed to prescribe, administer, or dispense these substances within the state.  For this reason, all hospitals will validate a health practitioner’s DEA registration number and check to ensure that they are not on either of the investigated or prosecuted lists before hiring them, and even credentialing offices will validate these records.

If you wish to report a doctor to the DEA for a thorough DEA investigation, contact the DEA whistleblower hotline immediately.

It is for this important reason that DEA screening is included within the scope of Streamline Verify’s screening services. Visit our website to find out more about the importance of OIG exclusion screening along with the other federal and state databases and the weighty consequences that non-compliance brings to your organization.