A Medical Review Officer (MRO) helps organisations assess whether current or potential workers are fit for work, notably by interpreting the results of tests for alcohol and other drugs (AOD), including prescription and illicit drugs.
What is a Medical Review Officer?
A Medical Review Officer (MRO) is a doctor who has completed specialist training in pharmacy and toxicology. The MRO is conversant with the technical, regulatory and practical aspects of drug and alcohol screening and plays a vital role in the overall process. Accredited by the Australian Medical Review Officers Association, MROs work for independent medical review companies. They show a high degree of integrity, and must adhere to privacy, confidentiality and record keeping standards.
When are MRO Services needed?
An organisation must consult an MRO:
- if a drug test returns a positive result: the MRO will determine if the presence and level of the detected drug could be the result of prescribed medications
- if an employee fails to give a sample for testing due to a medical condition: the MRO will review the relevant medical information to assess the validity of the reason
- to determine if an employee is fit to resume work after they have been suspended
The MRO is familiar with all forms of AOD testing, such as hair or saliva sample testing, and will not only determine the result of the test, but also serves as a contact point between the employer, the donor, the collection site and the lab.
MRO and Non-Negative Test Results
MRO services are also crucial to assist in the management of workers who have returned a non-negative AOD screen result.
The MRO is knowledgeable about commonly used over-the-counter drugs and how these may cause a sample to test non negative.
The Medical Review Officer will perform a review of the test results and will consult, by telephone or in person, with the specimen donor. The interview gives the donor the opportunity to provide evidence that may have caused the non negative result. The MRO will then make a determination whether there is a legitimate medical explanation to account for a ‘non negative’ result. Where the MRO is able to determine a legitimate medical explanation, e.g. over-the-counter drugs use, has resulted in a ‘non negative’ test, the MRO is able to report the drug test as being negative.
MROs and safer workplaces
The MRO determination process provides a scientifically valid opinion that is medico-legally sound and enables employers to take appropriate action commensurate with their drug and alcohol policy.
The Medical Review Officer will also notify employers if prescribed medication may have an effect on the safe performance of the employee’s duties. The MRO will be familiar with the employer’s work environment, and is therefore in the best position to make an informed decision regarding safety at work.
All organisations undertaking employee drug and alcohol screening programs medico-legally are advised to have their program results overseen by an MRO to enhance the validity and reliability of the overall drug screening process.