Which is better? At-Home Diagnostic Testing Vs. Point-of-Care Testing

At-Home Diagnostic Testing

Which is better? At-Home Diagnostic Testing Vs. Point-of-Care Testing

Mari Pack

Home health care is often a less expensive, more convenient form of traditional medical care. Some types of home care require the presence of a medical specialist, like a nurse or a phlebotomist, but point-of-care testing and at-home diagnostic testing do not. Both performed outside a medical setting, these two kinds of tests allow patients to screen for common diseases. While similar, they offer distinct pros and cons as methods of reputable home care. 

What is at-home diagnostic testing?

At-home diagnostics is a type of remote testing wherein the patient self-collects a sample at home and mails it to a lab for processing. A provider can reach out directly in the event of a reactive test result. Remote diagnostics can be used for disease screening and compliance protocols, such as medication maintenance. 

What is an example of at-home diagnostic testing?

STI tests are a popular type of at-home diagnostic. Some digital health companies offer remote STI testing direct to the consumer. Student health at universities and public health departments may also offer remote STI testing as a convenience or to reach underserved target populations.  

At-home diagnostic STI tests can screen for common infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis as well as HIV. Patients use specific collection materials depending on the test. HIV screening, for example, requires the use of a dried blood spot card. The patient pricks a finger and presses drops of capillary blood into designated collection circles on the thick cardstock. Once dry, the patient mails the sample card in a biohazard bag to a predetermined lab partner. 

Other tests, such as for gonorrhea, require 3-site testing rather than bloodwork. In this case, an at-home STI kit may include pipettes and a container for urinalysis and swabs for sample self-collection from the anus, mouth, and genitals. 

What is point-of-care testing?

Point-of-care testing allows patients to test in a non-medical setting and receive results quickly without submitting the sample to a lab. 

What is an example of point-of-care testing?

COVID-19 tests are probably the most well known point-of-care test. The COVID-19 antigen test allows patients to screen for an active infection. With this type of test, there is a greater chance for a false negative and some physicians recommend confirming with a PCR test. COVID-19 point-of-care testing enables more patients to test for the infection as the test is available over the counter in most drug stores. 

What at-home diagnostic tests does Ash Wellness offer?

Ash Wellness offers over 150 types of remote diagnostic tests in the United States. Our Platform is used to underpin public health projects, back digital health products, and support major medication adherence initiatives. We offer HbA1c testing for diabetes, hormone testing for fertility and other digital health verticals, quarterly PrEP testing, 3-site STI screening, cervical cancer screening, and more. 

What are the benefits and drawbacks of point-of-care tests and at-home diagnostic tests? 

POC tests and at-home diagnostics serve similar but slightly separate care niches. At-home diagnostic tests connect patients to providers by dropping them into a remote care flow. Point-of-care tests are quick and convenient, and some can be purchased over the counter, but because they are performed without any medical oversight, these tests do not intrinsically link patients to care. Point-of-care tests also cannot be used for medication adherence initiatives, while at-home diagnostics can be used to meet compliance requirements. 

Some experts criticize certain types of point-of-care testing, such as HIV testing. POC HIV testing does reach patients who might not otherwise take a test, but individuals with a reactive result are left to seek follow-up care themselves. Many do not pursue care right away due to social stigma and fear. This can result in delayed care for HIV positive patients, and is linked to worse economic and health outcomes overall. On the other hand, at-home diagnostics funnels patients into a remote care flow, and enables providers to reach out to HIV positive individuals. 


POC testing and at-home diagnostics both make health care more accessible, especially for folks who may not feel comfortable in a traditional medical setting, such as LGBTQ+ patients, or people with other barriers to care like rural or elderly patients. Point-of-care tests are, in some cases, available over the counter, though pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens have recently launched retail remote diagnostics offerings.

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