The U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance recently released a statement clarifying an issue regarding Medical Review Officers (MROs) contacting an employee’s treating physicians. In short, HIPAA rules do not apply to MROs carrying out their verification process duties under 49 CFR Part 40.
In part, the rule states:
MROs need no written authorizations from employees to verify drug test results, to discuss alternative medical explanations with prescribing physicians and issuing pharmacists, to report results to employers, to confer with Substance Abuse Professionals (SAPs) and evaluating physicians, or to report other medical information (see §40.327).
MROs are encouraged by the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance to contact the treating physician if the MRO has suspicions or questions resulting from a verification interview in which the employee presented a medical explanation. When applicable, the MRO is also encouraged to contact the pharmacy to verify the legitimacy of the prescription. Requiring a waiver or consent for this information is contrary to Part 40, and it would impose a requirement on an employee for a release that is also counter to Part 40 (see §40.355).
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