Recently I had a provider call me and reveal that one of his patients felt betrayed by him because his patient complained they were being treated like a drug addict after the patient “discovered” he had been drug tested. The provider explained since he ran a pain clinic he assumed all patients knew they would be drug tested. Theoretically, patients being seen at a pain or SUD clinic should realize they will be drug tested, however, every clinic should have a protocol in which the purpose, as well as the procedure of the drug test, should be explained prior to the drug test. The provider-patient relationship is paramount for obtaining the best outcome from treatment. When a patient is confronted with results of a drug test they assumed, justly or unjustly, was for different purposes (cholesterol or glucose levels) the conversation with them regarding those results changes drastically, potentially damaging that crucial relationship. The reason for the drug test, what is done with the results, and explaining the confidentiality of the results should always be done prior to the patient supplying a sample.
Everyone involved in the drug testing should communicate openly (within their scope) with the patient, using an understanding attitude. All should be “singing the same song.” All drug testing staff should have a clear understanding of and be able to recite the clinic’s protocols, regardless of who the patient seeks an explanation from. All patients should be treated with dignity and respect, with a straight forward, nonjudgmental attitude. Explaining the reasons for drug testing and any subsequent treatment in a matter-of-fact, non-confrontational manner significantly decreases confrontations. Only the providers who ordered the drug tests and have control over the patient’s treatment should discuss results. Patients will many times seek the “weakest” link to obtain a sympathetic ear, using anything that may be discussed with them to their advantage. Deferring any questions to the provider is the safest course of action for clinic staff to take and is the only response a collector should have.
Whereas drug testing will seem intrusive to some patients, others may welcome the discipline imposed upon them. While making drug testing black and white may seem harsh to some, all must remember it is not done to be punitive. In dealing with patients who contact the lab regarding results they didn’t like (they never seem to call about normal results), we take the same approach. Those of you in my age bracket may remember the famous words of Joe Friday, “Just the facts, Ma’am!” We give them only the facts we know from their test. We do not speculate as to why they might have been positive or negative, regardless of the stories they attempt to tell us. We may discuss possibilities with the providers should they call, but never with the patients as they tend to twist discussions in their favor.
I hope all of you had a Happy New Year. We look forward to working with you this year and I thank you all for your business.
President/CEO Industry Lab Diagnostic Partners