An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Home Covid Tests Are Here, But Their Reporting Processes Are Still Evolving

Courtesy of Lucira

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first at-home Covid-19 test. That means, if you’re not showing symptoms of the virus, you won’t need a doctor’s permission or go to a clinic to get a test. You can administer it yourself and get a relatively quick answer. But the test is not cheap and not necessarily easy to procure.

There’s also the question of whether those who take the test will report the result to health authorities.

Spokane County Interim Health Officer Frank Velazquez says there are several at-home Covid tests, made up of two types.

“There’s a difference between an at-home test and an at-home collection kit for a test," he said.

Most of those on the market serve as collection kits. The person who buys the test collects the nasal swab sample at home and sends it to a lab to be diagnosed.

"Then these reference laboratories report electronically to the provider and the public health agencies as needed," he said.

With the newest tests, the person who buys the test collects the sample and then inserts it into the diagnostic tool at home. The sample is analyzed right there, perhaps as quickly as a half hour. But the test kit doesn’t have a tool that allows the result to be reported anywhere.

“And the more we see of those, the more we’ll be concerned about the results not being shared with a health care provider who will share those with a public health agency," Velazquez said.

That means those agencies aren’t able to keep accurate track of how many people who test at home test positive for the virus. But Velazquez says that may soon change.

“Many of the companies are looking at a home test are looking at an electronic connection through a smart phone-type, encrypted, cloud-based system and there are a few of those that will be coming on the market," he said.

The first is Lucira’s, the test that received the FDA’s emergency use authorization last week. That one is meant for people 14 and older. They’re prescribed by providers who suspect the patient may have Covid. But, so far, the single-use tests are only available in a few areas. The cost is about $50.

Lucira counsels the providers who prescribe the at-home tests to ask patients to report the cases back to them. The company says it expects to have a HIPPA-compliant reporting system ready by February.