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How Self-collection is Making Health Care More Accessible – American Society for Microbiology

COVID-19 at-home specimen collection kits might include a set of instructions, a flocked nasal swab, a 3 milliliter tube of saline…….

COVID-19 at-home specimen collection kits might include a set of instructions, a flocked nasal swab, a 3 milliliter tube of saline solution, a biohazard bag and a padded envelope.

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Following the outbreak of COVID-19, a call for robust testing spurred innovative solutions. These included processes for tracking COVID-19 cases, commercially available rapid at-home tests and methods for sending self-collected specimens to testing laboratories.  

More than 2 years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, researchers and diagnosticians are examining the following questions to improve public health: How can we expand the collection of specimens in non-clinical spaces for testing that will subsequently occur in laboratories? How can access to health care be improved through self-testing and the self-collection of specimens? 

COVID-19 Ignites a Trend of At-home Specimen Collection 

The self-collection of specimens for COVID-19 testing helps reduce exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and allows for a higher testing frequency when appointments and capacity in clinical spaces are limited. Dr. Susan Harrington, Director of Microbiology Processing for Cleveland Clinic, said at-home sample collection—in this case, the process of collecting a nasal swab or saliva sample and sending the sample to a clinical laboratory for further polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing—is a growing trend in health care that could dramatically shift how we test for viral infections.  

“At-home specimen collection was put to use during a COVID-19 surge, either because we didn’t have enough swabbing appointments, or because we didn’t have enough personnel,” Harrington said. “Being able to collect a saliva sample or a nasal swab is also compatible with telemedicine. We’re certainly seeing more requests from our physicians who are interested in telemedicine approaches. It can help reach patients who do not live near a testing site as well as patients who can’t leave the home.” 

In June 2020, a study conducted by the University of Washington and UnitedHealth Group demonstrated that the self-collection of specimens for COVID-19 PCR testing produced results similar in accuracy to that of PCR testing where specimens were collected by health care professionals in clinical spaces. The authors also noted how self-collection testing can help testing sites reduce the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) required for staff and allow for a “more comfortable patient experience.” Another study, published in September 2020, examined the …….


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