How At-Home Testing Could Impact Your Patients, According to the CDC
In September 2021, the CDC published a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on the real-world outcomes of at-home health testing as an intervention. Ash Wellness team members, as earnest proponents of virtual healthcare and other at-home solutions, were eager to peel through the results. Partners often ask us for studies on the efficacy of telemedicine services and at-home diagnostic tests, especially as compared to more conventional healthcare methods.
This recent MMWR cited a national case in which a public-private partnership provided free HIV self-test kits directly to patients. According to the report, “[d]uring March 31, 2020–March 30, 2021, 17 state and local health departments participating in the program allowed residents of their jurisdictions to order test kits.” These rapid point-of-care kits empowered patients to test and view results at home, and enabled providers “to provide options for HIV testing to persons who might be reticent or unable to seek clinic- or community-based testing.”
The report offers a lot of new data about at-home diagnostic tests as an intervention compared to traditional methods. Does at-home testing pave the way for further healthcare intervention? Did it reach new patient populations? Was it convenient? Did it address and solve real barriers to healthcare?
Here are four major takeaways from the study:
1. At home testing reached new populations
- 36% of participants reported never having previously tested for HIV
2. People accessed more healthcare services after being tested
- 10% reported accessing additional STI services
- 8% reported accessing PrEP services
3. The service addressed healthcare barriers
- 63% reported using the service because of convenience
- 43% reported using the service because of privacy concerns
- 31% reported using the service because they were not comfortable going to a doctor in their area
4. People liked the experience
- 90% reported that they would recommend the service
While a success for proponents of home diagnostics, the report cited one major drawback: “Compared with traditional HIV testing programs, self-testing presents additional challenges to documenting whether the test was used and by whom, as well as challenges documenting a test result and linkage to HIV care or prevention services.”
This particular partnership offered resources “to help participants interpret their self-test results and access services after testing,” but clients were not automatically linked to additional care.
The CDC concludes: “HIV self-testing is a proven intervention that represents a paradigm shift in testing practices and is a key strategy to support the goals of the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the United States initiative.” However, this study also highlights limitations of point-of-care tests in particular. What happens when a patient receives a positive HIV test at home without immediate healthcare intervention? What are the long term health consequences? What are the mental health ramifications?
At Ash Wellness, in addition to kitting at-home tests, we process kits through our network of CLIA and CAP certified diagnostic laboratories, and feed results directly into our partners' EMR. Medical and healthcare providers can manage follow up directly with patients, so nobody is left stranded with a test result. Learn more about how Ash Wellness can help your business turn on comprehensive at-home diagnostic testing.
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