At-home Kits Help, but Lab Capacity Still Creates Delays in COVID-19 Testing

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With coronavirus cases skyrocketing across the country, there continue to be questions around testing capacity and what it will really take to understand the impact of the COVID-19 virus.  Even though the U.S. has finally reached the 500,000 daily testing point, that’s still well below the rate many experts say is needed for effective and accurate tracking of the disease.

While many solutions are being promoted to increase workplace and public safety, like contact tracing, they are not foolproof.  For one, many have concerns about privacy when it comes to these apps.  But even that aside, they rely on confirmed cases – which relies on testing.

LabCorp, a North Carolina-based life sciences company, may be able to help with a new home-based testing service.  The At-Home COVID-19 Test Collection Service has received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, making it a temporarily approved solution for testing.

The service allows doctors or patients to order test kits that are delivered to patients at home, so they can collect a sample and send it out for analysis.

The process is simple:

  1. Complete a short eligibility survey (which may require physician approval).
  2. If eligible, LabCorp can file with patients’ insurance providers or utilize federal funds to cover the cost of this test for patients without coverage.
  3. Patients receive the collection kit via FedEx.
  4. Patients collect the sample (see video below) and return it to LabCorp’s lab for testing.
  5. Patients are able to access results online, and them directly to the appropriate healthcare provider’s EHR system.

The kits include everything individuals need to collect a nasal swab sample and return it to the lab, though LabCorp says results may take several days due to high demand.  So, while it doesn’t solve the problem of timeliness, it at least increases access to testing.

Now, what we really need is more lab capacity to complete the testing.  As people wait for their results, they risk passing the virus to others, so the faster they get their results, the better for the community.