Medical Review Officers Verify Legitimacy
Separating the presence of legitimate prescription drugs from illegal substances that show up in employment drug screens is an important role the certified medical review officers (MROs) at Saint Francis Medical Center perform for business clients.
“The MRO’s job is to be the referee in the interpretation of a drug test,” explains Dennis Straubinger, DO, MPH, MRO, occupational medicine physician on staff at Saint Francis. “Part of the process in evaluating a drug screen is working with the pharmacist so we can render a fair judgment.”
Upon receiving a significant test result, the MRO contacts the individual and asks scripted questions regarding any medications they may be taking. If they do report taking prescription medications, the MRO may ask them to contact their pharmacist to let them know the physician will be calling.
“Even though this is a forensic test and not a medical test, which means HIPAA privacy regulations do not apply, we find it easier to initiate a conversation with the pharmacist if the client calls them first,” Straubinger says. “We ask the pharmacist for details about the prescription to make sure it is legitimate.”
If it turns out the drug is in the client’s urine sample legitimately, the MRO reports the results of the drug screen as negative. The report does not include any details about what the test showed, nor does it make any determination of potential abuse of prescription medications.
“The role of the MRO is not to determine whether or not the person is abusing prescription medications,” Straubinger notes. “Our responsibility lies in using the scientific method to produce an objective test, and making sure the client is treated with all fairness.”
For more information about utilizing Saint Francis’ Occupational Medicine physicians as your MRO, call Jason Bandermann, MBA, referral services manager, at 573-331-5825.
Employers Fighting a Battle Against Fatigue in the Workplace
Fatigue on the job is one of the most common causes of decreased productivity and increased safety issues in the workplace.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 15 million Americans work full-time on irregular shifts in the late evenings or overnight. Many suffer from “shift work sleep disorder,” which refers to the disruption of the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm.
Daytime workers are not immune to the effects of fatigue, particularly after lunch. Common symptoms include a decrease in task performance rate and/or quality, problem-solving skills and focus. Employers will never be able to eliminate fatigue from the workplace, but they can encourage behaviors that minimize its effects.
Take scheduled breaks – The brain benefits from time away from the job. Even short breaks help workers regain their focus and attention to detail. Maintaining break schedules during busy periods also helps boost morale and limits safety issues.
Get proper nutrition – Consider offering nutritious snacks such as fruits, nuts and health bars as an alternative to traditional vending machine fare. Educate workers on the negative effects that caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can have on obtaining quality sleep.
Get quality sleep – Treating chronic sleep disorders is a major component in addressing fatigue issues. Sleep apnea is one of the most common and most treatable conditions, and has an impact on overall health. Avoid eating big meals right before bed to limit the body’s need to work during sleep. Encourage at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, with the goal of eight hours total.
Exercise regularly – Studies have shown substantial returns on investment for companies that offer discounted gym memberships or their own onsite workout facility. There is a reason for that: regular exercise leads to improved overall health and greater energy levels during the workday.
For more information or to discuss fatigue in the workplace with a Saint Francis Occupational Medicine physician, call Jason Bandermann, MBA, referral services manager, at 573-331-5825.
Immunizations Are the Best Deterrent for Tetanus and Hepatitis B
Immunizations are the most effective lines of defense following an exposure to blood or bodily fluids from potentially severe infectious diseases such as hepatitis B and tetanus.
Almost all hospital workers, first responders, emergency workers and military personnel receive immunizations for these viral diseases, and it has become routine for most of the general population during childhood. However, that may not be the case for every worker.
“Most people receive basic immunizations through schools,” says Dennis Straubinger, DO, MPH, MRO, occupational medicine physician on staff at Saint Francis Medical Center. “Some populations do not always keep up to date on immunizations.”
Tetanus is a potentially fatal disease that affects the brain. Symptoms include irritability, muscle spasms and general malaise. Hepatitis B attacks the liver, with symptoms including abdominal pain, dark urine, fever, loss of appetite and nausea, weakness and fatigue, and yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
“Always use soap and water to clean any wound that breaks the skin,” Straubinger advises. “Other solutions, including alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, are not effective.”
“Symptoms for these diseases can be difficult to recognize,” he adds. “If you know you have been exposed to blood or bodily fluids, contact your doctor immediately. Preventive treatments may reduce the risk that the virus will infect your body, but you must receive treatment very quickly, especially in the case of hepatitis B and HIV.”