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Family physicians’ proficiency in urine drug test interpretation

Gary M. Reisfield, MD, Fern J. Webb, PhD, Roger L. Bertholf, PhD, Paul A. Sloan, MD, George R. Wilson, MD


Objective: To determine the proficiency in urine drug test interpretation among family medicine physicians who order these tests to monitor adherence in their patients on chronic opioid therapy.
Methods: A seven-question instrument, consisting of six, five-option, single-best-answer multiple choice questions and one yes/no question was administered to 80 family medicine physicians attending a University of Kentucky Family Medicine Review Course. We calculated frequencies and performed χ2 analyses to examine bivariate associations between urine drug test utilization and interpretive knowledge.
Results: The instrument was completed by 60/80 (75 percent) of eligible physicians (44 order urine drug testing; 16 do not). None of the physicians who order urine drug testing answered more than five of the seven questions correctly, and only 20 percent answered more than half correctly. Physicians who order urine drug testing performed better than physicians who do not order urine drug testing on only four of the seven questions, although there were no statistically significant differences between the groups on any question.
Conclusions: Family medicine physicians who order urine drug testing to monitor their patients on chronic opioid therapy are not proficient in their interpretation. This study highlights the need for improved physician education in this area. It is imperative for physicians to work closely with certified laboratory professionals when ordering and interpreting urine drug tests.


urine drug test, opioid, drug abuse

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