Can doctors share drug test results?

Q:

Can doctors share drug test results?

A:

When it comes to sharing drug test results, it is important to understand different drug testing situations and the laws and policies that may apply to each situation. In general, doctors cannot share drug test results due to the requirement for doctor-patient confidentiality. Therefore, if you undergo a drug test privately with your doctor, they generally cannot share the results without your written consent.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) covers the federal laws surrounding privacy of drug testing results. The Act prevents entities such as drug testing laboratoriesand medical providers from sharing drug testing results, except in certain situations. Other Federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may also apply to drug test results. State laws surrounding privacy can also vary.

Policies Surrounding Workplace Drug Testing Results

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires that employee medical records are kept confidential. Drug testing results should be stored in a medical file that is kept separate from general employee records. The privacy of medical records is imperative so that information is only provided to those who are authorized to see it.

When it comes to workplace drug testing, it is important that clear policies are put in place by the employer surrounding drug test results. The employee should be asked to sign a form for informed consent to allow their drug testing results to be released on a need-to-know basis.

This means that specific individuals within an organization who are involved with the drug testing process will obtain access to the employee's drug testing results as needed. The Medical Review Officer (MRO) will likely be the first individual to gain access to an employee's drug testing results. The employee can then provide a medical explanation for the results if applicable. Following this, the Designated Employer Representative (DER) and/or employer may be notified of the results.

If an employee does not sign a consent form allowing their drug testing results to be released to relevant parties, this will be treated as a refusal to test. Drug testing cannot go ahead in this situation. Employees in safety-sensitive positions who refuse to test will be prohibited from carrying out safety-sensitive duties and dismissalmay also result.

DOT policies surrounding the sharing of drug test results

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has specific policies around the sharing of results for DOT workplace drug testing. DOT specifies that there are instances when drug test results can be released without employee consent. These situations include a lawsuit, grievance or administrative proceeding resulting from a positive DOT drug or alcohol test, or a refusal to test, as well as criminal or civil action around safety-sensitive duties when it is relevant.

Overall, an employer should always seek to obtain written consent from an employee so that results can be shared on a need to know basis. Employers should also be aware of federal and state laws surrounding privacy and should consult with an attorney to ensure compliance with laws.


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Written by John Hawes
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John Hawes is the CCO and co-founder at SureHire Occupational Health Testing. John graduated in 2001 from the University of Alberta with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy. As a former physical therapist, John uses his knowledge of physical therapy and interest in ergonomics and biomechanics to devise fit for work testing.

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