What is the difference between at-home diagnostic tests and point-of-care tests?

At-Home Diagnostic Testing

What is the difference between at-home diagnostic tests and point-of-care tests?

Mari Pack

We field a lot of telemedicine questions at Ash Wellness. Is self-testing safe and effective? (Yes.) Can it address healthcare barriers? (The CDC thinks so.) Is telemedicine here to stay? (Almost certainly.) What is the difference between at-home diagnostic tests and point-of-care tests? We’re so glad you asked! In this blog, we will review the difference between at-home diagnostic tests and point-of-care tests, and the pros and cons of each.  

What are at-home diagnostic tests

Ash Wellness offers remote self-collect laboratory tests – sometimes called at-home diagnostics or at-home health tests – for hospitals, clinics, and D2C companies. For these types of tests, patients collect samples at home using a self-collection kit, which includes materials like swabs, test cards, and collection tubes, and submit them to a CLIA/CAP certified lab (telemedicine lab) for processing. Laboratory technicians process these samples and upload results to an online portal. Primary care doctors, specialists, or other healthcare professionals review results and walk patients through next steps. At-home health tests are an extension of existing healthcare systems, and are covered by a growing number of insurance providers

What are point-of-care tests

Point-of-care tests are diagnostics done outside of a lab that patients can take by themselves at home. These tests develop rapidly and produce results without a doctor or lab technician present. Point-of-care testing is popular in public health initiatives, such as HIV self-testing, because it provides testing without needing a full diagnostic laboratory to process samples. The rapid antigen test for COVID-19 is an example of a popular point-of-care self-test. Pregnancy tests also fall under the umbrella of point-of-care tests. With point-of-care tests, patients review results outside a medical setting and determine their own next steps. 

Point-of-care tests versus at-home tests 

While point-of-care tests provide immediate results, at-home diagnostic tests (with results from laboratory technicians in telemedicine labs and intervention from doctors) are considered more reliable. Since point-of-care testing often takes place outside the healthcare system, patients are left ‘stranded’ with test results. Some healthcare professionals flag ethical concerns for patients who receive results without a doctor present to recommend next steps. 

Final thoughts on home diagnostics

At-home health tests and point-of-care tests are both valuable tools for individual and public health. At-home health tests provide better accuracy and assist ongoing medical care, but point-of-care tests, which are often less expensive and require no medical oversight, are sometimes more accessible. Both are useful innovations to traditional laboratory testing. 

Want to turn on at-home remote diagnostics for your business? Ash Wellness partners with businesses and healthcare networks to connect patients with providers, so that doctors interpret results and recommend next steps. We also white label patient portals for our partners, so end-users have access to their results online. Check out Ash Wellness plans for more information on our HIPAA compliant solution.

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