A Medical Review Officer (MRO) is a person who is a licensed physician and who is responsible for receiving and reviewing laboratory results generated by an employer's drug testing program and evaluating medical explanations for certain drug test results.
The MRO acts as an independent and impartial "gatekeeper" and advocate for the accuracy and integrity of the drug testing process. The MRO provides quality assurance review of the drug testing process for the specimens under their purview, determine if there is a legitimate medical explanation for laboratory confirmed positive, adulterated, substituted and invalid drug test results, ensures the timely flow of test result and other information to employers and protect the confidentiality of the drug testing information.
The final review of drug test results can be a make or break moment for existing or potential employees and a first-rate drug testing program puts that task in the hands of a medical review officer. 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. MRO Services are required for federally mandated employees.