Instead of mountains of toilet paper rolls, maybe what we need now are coronavirus self-testing kits. Will COVID-19 test-from-home kits turn the tide of this pandemic?
A More Efficient Testing Strategy for COVID-19?
Even with home quarantine enforced by most nations to prevent the spread of COVID-19, hospitals and other health facilities are still struggling to handle the influx of patients clamoring to get tested.
Not only does this crowding heighten the risk of healthcare workers getting sick, but it could also increase the chances of spreading the virus to non-COVID-19 patients within these facilities. Furthermore, goes against social distancing and takes valuable time medical staff could be spending on critical cases.
With this scenario in mind, experts are now proposing a solution: novel coronavirus self-testing at home.
Coronavirus Test-from-Home Kits: Step-by-Step Delivery Proposal
Inspired by testing drive-thrus in other countries, the United States has also implemented this in sample areas. The proposed at-home self-testing method takes this further, hopefully increasing efficiency while maintaining the accuracy of results.
The delivery will go as follows:
- There will be phone-in medical services with qualified clinical staff. If you are exhibiting symptoms, call the service. The doctor will assess:
- The severity of your case
- Whether or not you need to get tested
- Test-at-home kits home delivery and pick-ups. Should your phone-in consultation advise you to get tested, you can then have the test kit delivered or mailed to your house. You can also pick one up from the nearest pharmacy, clinic, or public health center.
- Self-swab your nasopharynx. You can either do this yourself or ask for a caregiver’s help.
- Ship or mail the test sample to a local laboratory. The lab will then send the results back to you and the physician you spoke with in the phone-in medical consult.
Benefits of COVID-19 Test-from-Home Kits
Besides keeping with social distancing rules, the COVID-19 test-from-home strategy also helps:
- Lessens healthcare workers’ exposure to the virus
- Rapidly extends testing reach without exponential costs
- Makes testing more available to the logistically-challenged
- Eliminates linguistic and cultural barriers through employing a diverse pool of medical staff for the phone-in service
- Decreases the elderly’s virus exposure risk
- Allows scarce resources in healthcare facilities like protective gear to be allocated to more critical use
- Decongests health facilities and opens these up to more severe cases
Concerns on this Self-Testing Method
While the proposal looks great on paper, the policies and other structures needed to roll it out are yet to be in place. Some of the concerns include:
- Determining the effectiveness of various testing methods (drive-thru and test-at-home) and the processes linked to them (like the phone-in medical consultation)
- Informing the public of the correct way to self-swab to get an accurate sample
- Monitoring self-swabbing for accuracy
- Establishing a system that would execute the proposed step-by-step delivery
- Technological infrastructure for rapid information sharing re: test results, treatment strategy, and treatment outcomes
- The greater impact of asymptomatic infected unwittingly spreading the virus, and how self-testing will affect this situation
For Now, While Staying at Home
Self-testing for viral respiratory infections isn’t new. It’s been tried for the common flu, and the accuracy of the results are promising. COVID-19 test-at-home kits might come to be in the near future, but for now, we can do our part in protecting ourselves and our neighbors.
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