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

At-home diagnostics and point-of-care tests are types of tests patients can take at home to assess biomarkers associated with contagious diseases, certain types of cancers, and other health factors. At-home diagnostics provide collection devices for patients to self-collect samples and send them to a telemedicine lab for analysis, while point-of-care tests produce results without a doctor or lab technician present. Both bring care into the home, though each has advantages and disadvantages associated with use.   

1. What are at-home diagnostic tests?

At-home diagnostic tests are kits patients use in a non-clinical setting that contain self-collection devices and materials, allowing them to collect and send biomarkers through the mail. Materials in a kit may include swabs, cards, collection tubes, or collection cups. Dried blood spot cards are a popular kind of self-collection device that allows patients to prick their finger and deposit blood, which is then screened for STIs, cancers, HbA1c levels, etc. Providers mail kits to patient homes, patients self-collect samples and return the kit via mail. When kits arrive at the lab, laboratory technicians process samples and upload results to an online portal. Providers can then review results with patients and talk through next steps.

Chat with Ash Wellness about white-label at-home diagnostic test kits to assess your patient population. .

2. What are point-of-care tests?

Point-of-care tests taken at our near the point of care, which often means in a patient’s 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. 

3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of at-home diagnostics and point-of-care tests? 

While point-of-care tests provide immediate results, at-home diagnostic tests 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. Here are some additional advantages and disadvantages of each type of test:


  • Convenience: Patients can perform at-home diagnostics and point-of-care tests in the comfort of their own homes, reducing the need for travel and time spent in waiting rooms.
  • Rapid Results: Point-of-care tests provide results quickly, allowing for immediate action or treatment if necessary, without waiting for lab results to come back.
  • Increased Access: Both at-home diagnostics and point-of-care tests can improve access to testing, especially for individuals in remote areas or those who may face barriers to accessing healthcare facilities.
  • Linkage to care: Since at-home diagnostics bring patients into a care flow, they also incorporate linkage to care models that connect patients with providers.


  • Accuracy Concerns: Some point-of-care tests may have lower accuracy compared to lab-based tests, leading to false positives or false negatives.
  • Limited Test Range: Not all tests can be effectively performed at home or at the point of care, limiting the scope of conditions that can be diagnosed or monitored using these methods.
  • Comfort: Not all patients may feel comfortable taking tests at home without medical oversight, as improper collection can lead to an inaccurate result. 

Final thoughts on home diagnostics and point-of-care tests

At-home diagnostic tests and point-of-care tests are both valuable tools for individual and public health. At-home diagnostic 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 diagnostics for your business? Ash Wellness partners with payors, public health departments, businesses, and healthcare networks to connect patients with providers, allowing doctors to interpret results and recommend next steps. Schedule a time to chat with us.

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