The final review of drug test results can be a make or break moment for existing or potential employees, and first-rate drug testing programs put that task in the hands of a medical review officer. Medical review officers (MRO) are licensed physicians who have a history of diagnostic work in the field of substance abuse.
Their role in a drug testing program includes yet goes far beyond reviewing the final results of administered drug tests. Their overall goal is to ensure the drug testing process is accurate and efficient while protecting both the employer and employees.
When a test result comes back positive for drugs, it’s not always an indication that the employee has taken an illegal substance. Likewise, when a drug test result comes back as adulterated, substituted or invalid, specimen tampering is not always to blame. It’s up to the MRO to determine if illegal drug use or specimen tampering has indeed been the case, or if the results were caused by another issue or problem.
Certain prescription medications or medical procedures, for example, could result in a false positive for illegal substances, which is something the MRO could determine through an interview with the tested individual. The MROs’ medical knowledge and background assure they’re already intimately aware of possible alternative explanations for specific drug testing results, making them well-equipped to determine the explanation behind them.
If additional follow up or employee contact is required regarding the drug testing procedure, the MRO is the one who will make this contact. When researching positive drug test results, the MRO would secure proof of a valid explanation from the individual, and thus report the drug test as negative for an illegal substance. If proof can’t be provided, the MRO would report the test as positive to the employer.
MROs relieve the employer of the responsibility of having to make a decision regarding employee’s claims. When the onus is on the employer, so are any subsequent lawsuits that could challenge the employer’s decision. With an MRO at the helm, any challenges would be up against a medical professional who has the background, training and experience to support his or her decision.
As the point of contact for employers, employees and drug testing facilities, the MRO additionally protects the integrity and confidentiality of the drug testing results and other personal health-related information.
In addition to having a background in substance abuse and knowledge of the pharmacology of illicit drugs, MROs go through stringent training in drug testing collection procedures, chain of custody, recordkeeping and interpretation of drug testing results. They can help employers comply with any state, federal or industry drug testing regulations, ensuring procedures are followed as required.
Even if employers are not guided by regulations that require an MRO be part of the drug testing procedure, having one on board is a wise move for the overall accuracy and integrity of your overall drug testing program.
Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.