While there are a wide variety of different strategies in mind on how to best combat and curb COVID-19, one major common thread with all of these is increasing testing. However, there are bottlenecks with some of the expanded testing options, like testing resources as well as the availability of medical professionals to process said tests. One option that is gaining steam is the idea of an at-home self-service diagnostic for COVID-19. But what are some of the pros and cons of this concept?
First, let’s do a walkthrough of what some experts consider the ideal process for this type of testing.
- People with symptoms would use telemedicine to reach to a professional and determine whether testing is needed.
- Those that can be tested at home would get a test kit through home delivery, by mail, or picked up at a pharmacy.
- The patient would perform a nasopharynx swab on themselves at home.
- When the test is completed, the test would be delivered/mailed to a local lab.
There are quite a few benefits of going this route. Here’s a rundown of what stands to be gained if this method became commonplace.
The ability to have more testing at a lower cost and lower exposure risk.
Making it easier to social distance, especially for high-risk groups like older adults.
Reducing use of health care facilities, helping with resource allocation.
Promoting health equity. For example, testing at home will reduce barriers like language, cultures, or logistics that would keep someone from getting tested at a clinic.
Serving certain communities. Rural communities may make it infeasible to do things like drive-thru testing. This offers a versatile alternative. Other groups may be able to better obtain testing this way, like those without childcare or transportation options.
In theory, there are some positives here in terms of opening up testing for a whole new subset of the population. However, before an at-home diagnostic is feasible, there are a few major concerns that need to be addressed. These include the following:
Choosing Who Gets Tested
An increased test stockpile doesn’t mean an infinite stockpile. There’s a major question involved with who exactly should be screened first. Right now, we are seeing professional athletes at the forefront of this testing, but some question prioritizing them as opposed to teachers or medical professionals, from a perspective of trying to minimize potential spread.
Is There Still Enough Availability?
There is also a concern if there is everything being done in order to increase test production. We’ve covered evidence showing that a less accurate test that can be more rapidly produced is actually going to be more effective in minimizing spread. However, the private sector may need more government support.
With that last point made, accuracy is still important. There’s also the concern about people at home administering the tests incorrectly, meaning they get an even more inaccurate reading of their health. Without a doctor present, while the test is being administered, there will be a greater chance of needing repeat tests, potentially neutralizing the lower amount of used resources.
Rapid testing will likely shake up the field of COVID-19 testing and open up a variety of different possibilities for how we navigate the pandemic moving forward. For now, though, self-assessment is a crucial tool in order to gain some measure of protection, while also meeting people where they are at in terms of what they are willing to do and participate in. As of right now, our goal should be making sure that people are able to self-assess and show their results in an easy and accessible way. COVID-PreCheck is perfect for this. Visit covidprecheck.net or use it from the COVID PreCheck app.
How does this work in practice? Whether you are a business owner or just want a layer of comfort before holding a gathering at home, you can ask anyone coming in to start by performing a self-assessment and showing the results with their custom QR code. Even when rapid testing becomes commonplace, this will still be a valuable option in order to quickly show people your results before entering public spaces.