HIPAA and drug test results

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(May 25, 2009) Drug testing and HIPAA. There seems to be lots of confusion recently on this subject. Does HIPAA apply to workplace drug or alcohol test results? Most would answer no. But, there is still fear out there that it does and we in the drug testing world run into it when we seek the cooperation of a medical practicioner for proof of a prescription or sometimes in a response to a bid. (As one subscriber described to me this week).

HIPAA protects the confidentiality of "medical records" of a "patient". None of those terms apply in drug testing. First, there is no patient. Many state drug test laws state so. There is only a donor. Second, there is no record of a "medical" examination. A drug test is not conducted to "diagnose" or "treat" a "patient". It is a forensic safety exam to determine if an "employee" or "prospective employee" meets the "employer's" work qualifications. In fact it's not even a "fitness for duty" exam.

Addressing this issue, the Americans with Disabilities Act states as follows:

"TITLE III--PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS AND SERVICES OPERATED BY PRIVATE ENTITIES
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(SEC. 104. ILLEGAL USE OF DRUGS AND ALCOHOL.
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d) Drug Testing.--

(1) In general.--For purposes of this title, a test to determine the illegal use of drugs shall not be considered a medical examination."

DOT has also published its position on this subject, which can be found on this site under the "Compliance Information Overview" page.