Medical Review Officer

The Essential Role of Medical Review Officers in Drug Testing

Drug testing has become an integral component of the pre-employment process for several industries, including transportation, healthcare, and manufacturing. With the increasing prevalence of substance abuse, employers have a responsibility to maintain a safe and productive workforce. A drug testing program is only as reliable as the professionals who oversee it, though. This is where Medical Review Officers (MROs) come in. In this article, we’ll delve into the importance of MROs in drug testing programs and how they play a crucial role in ensuring that testing is fair and accurate.

1. What is a Medical Review Officer?

A Medical Review Officer (MRO) is a licensed physician who reviews drug test results and determines the disposition of positive drug screens. MROs are responsible for ensuring that the testing process is fair and accurate by scrutinizing all relevant information and seeking any necessary clarification before declaring a test result positive. MROs also evaluate any medical explanations or prescriptions that could have caused a positive result. This evaluation helps reduce the likelihood of false positives, minimizing the risk of false accusations and preserving employees’ reputations.

2. Positive Drug Screen Disposition

The disposition of a positive drug screen often determines an employee’s job status. It can lead to the termination of employment or mandatory rehabilitation. Therefore, the accuracy of this decision is crucial. Through their expertise, MROs provide impartial and confidential evaluations of every positive drug screen to ensure that the results are genuine and accurate. Moreover, MROs work hand-in-hand with employers and employees to investigate the causes of the positivity. This process helps determine if there were any missteps in the collection process or false positives resulting from prescription medications.

3. Prescriptions Overturning Positives

Prescription medications can often cause positives in drug tests. Some controlled substances have legitimate uses, and employees who have used them appropriately may test positive for these substances. In such cases, MROs can contact the prescribing physician or pharmacy and verify if the drug used is safe. There can be alternate explanations, such as the employee’s recent surgery or medication, that could result in positives. MROs are well-versed in validating these reasons and communicating with the employee’s physician, pharmacist or medical professionals.

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4. Non-Contact Positives

Non Contact positives are issued when the MRO has tried to contact the donor for an explanation of why they were positive and the donor didn’t return the phone call.  Typically, MROs will contact the donor at least three times in a 24 hour period.  If the individual doesn’t respond, the MRO will issue a request for assistance to get in contact with the donor.  If the donor doesn’t respond within a reasonable time period, then the MRO will issue a non-contact positive.  If the donor does respond after the non-contact positive is issued, then the MRO can change to a positive or negative based on the information obtained.

5. Safety Concerns

MROs play a critical role in ensuring the safety of employees. They help employers maintain a safe and sober workplace, reducing the risk of accidents or mishaps. With their expertise, MROs can differentiate between legal prescriptions and illegal substance abuse.  When an MRO finds a situation where a donor has a legal prescription, however, the MRO determines there is a safety concern.  For instance, the donor has tested positive for oxycodone and has a valid prescription.  The donor also drives a forklift for their employer.  In this instance the MRO has a safety concern and will alert the employer that they have a safety concern with the employee or applicant driving a forklift while taking oxycodone.  The employer will then request employee or applicant to go to the prescribing physician or occupational physician to get clearance to drive forklift.  Rarely does it happen and physician will say I didn’t know he drives a forklift and will prescribe a more appropriate prescription.

Medical Review Officers are vital in ensuring that drug testing programs are reliable, fair, and accurate. Their expertise plays a vital role in investigating positives, reducing the probability of false accusations and maintaining employees’ reputations. MROs help establish the legitimacy of the test results by scrutinizing all relevant information and seeking clarification to provide impartial evaluations within the legal requirements. With their support, employers can maintain a safe and productive workplace, free of any drug-induced threats.

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