As you may know by now, the Food and Drug Administration recently granted emergency use authorization for the first at-home COVID-19 test. The benefits are obvious: patients don’t have to interact in close proximity to other possibly infected individuals or the healthcare professionals testing people all day long. Further, the home test kits promise results within 30 minutes. The less obvious benefit on the provider side is that fewer people are coming in and possibly exposing your team to the virus. Further, patients need a prescription for the test so your clinicians can still help (and bill), especially if you’ve adopted telemedicine options. However, it’s important to consider the drawbacks before advocating that people test themselves for a potentially deadly virus at home, without the aid of a clinician. No matter how simple a test is, or how well it’s explained, laypeople will make mistakes that compromise the results, leaving some to have a false sense of safety and others to quarantine unnecessarily. Then there’s the issue of reporting results to public health officials; as we’ve told you recently, even some healthcare facilities have been somewhat lax in informing health departments of positive test results. Can we expect the general public to take it more seriously? Finally, there’s a question of how much more convenient it really is. Patients either have to venture out to pick up the test anyway, or wait (possibly days) for one to be delivered. Weigh your approach to this development carefully, for the good of your practice and your patients.
Patients Can Take COVID-19 Tests at Home—but Should They?