How do at-home STI tests work?

At-Home Diagnostic Testing

How do at-home STI tests work?

Ash Team

Remote screening for STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV reduces barriers to care for patients who may not be able to take time off work, arrange childcare, or navigate unpredictable shifts to visit an in-person clinic. Stigma is also a barrier that prevents some patients from seeking frequent screening options, especially in the absence of symptoms. Many well-known organizations already use at-home STI test kits, such as Planned Parenthood, to improve access for patients. Telehealth providers, digital health companies, and public health departments can also develop at-home STI testing programs to expand patient care options and improve overall health outcomes. 

How at-home diagnostics works

Sexual health advocacy groups like the American Academy of Family Physicians deem telehealth platforms essential for making sexual health services available to a larger population. While at-home diagnostics programs may differ in some aspects of application, many at-home STI testing programs combine existing telehealth services with postal infrastructure and digital tools to mail collection kits, track samples, and share results with patients. Some digital health companies take advantage of provider of record services to offer remote STI screening programs online that do not require a direct consultation with a clinical specialist or physician. 

What to expect:

  • Request an at-home STI test through a remote or in-person care provider. 
  • Swab and mail your at-home STI test to the lab. 
  • Technicians upload results to a portal within 1-2 days.
  • Review results with your remote or in-person healthcare provider. 

Schedule a time to talk to Ash Wellness about at-home STI test programs through the Ash Platform.

Is at-home STI testing reliable?

Unlike STI rapid tests, which are taken at home and reveal results at home, remote diagnostic testing utilizes clinicians to oversee test results. Lab technician oversight renders some of the issues with rapid testing obsolete, such as incorrect patient sample collection that creates an inaccurate result reading. As with in-person testing, 3-site STI screening—wherein the patient swabs for STIs in the mouth, anus, and genitals—is more reliable than 1-site testing on genitals alone. 

A recent study published by the National Institute of Health Research shows the accuracy of at-home diagnostic STI tests:

  • At-home health testing picked up 98% of pooled and single swabs infections for gonorrhea.
  • At-home diagnostic testing picked up 90% of infections in pooled swabs, and had a higher chance of being picked up in separate tests.

Public health departments often use at-home diagnostic tests to ‘screen’ for STIs, and then connect patients with reactive results to in-person confirmatory testing. So, yes, at-home STI testing is reliable, but patients need to be sure to follow collection details and provider directions. 

What should you do if you test positive on an at-home STI test? 

Patients who receive a reactive STI result should first pat themselves on the back—contracting an STI is not shameful or embarrassing, and screening improves health outcomes for you and your sexual partner(s). In 2021, CDC estimated that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. had a sexually transmitted infection. Simple medical intervention can often treat an infection and stop the spread. Both brick-and-mortar clinics and at-home diagnostics programs offer discreet testing and treatment of STIs. 

Some at-home diagnostics programs offer linkage to care models as part of STI screening. This means that a provider may reach out to patients with reactive or abnormal test results to schedule a treatment plan or in-person confirmatory testing. Linkage to care is the gold standard for HIV intervention—measured through the completion of a first medical clinic visit within one month after an HIV diagnosis—and is increasingly popular in other STI care flows. 

Note: The CDC advises patients to get in touch with a general care physician even for asymptomatic cases. No matter how benign, untreated STIs can cause severe damage to patient reproductive systems and even end up causing infertility. They are also linked to higher chances of contracting or spreading HIV

How Ash Wellness helps with at-home diagnostic testing

Ash Wellness simplifies at-home diagnostic testing. We partner with healthcare systems, public health departments, and digital health companies to launch at-home STI programs in all 50 states. Our seamless CLIA/CAP lab integration ensures that at-home diagnostics are analyzed by industry lab technicians and uploaded to clients’ white-labeled portals for patients to review. We center a linkage to care model that helps clients keep patients in the care flow and receive high quality medical intervention as soon as possible to treat infection.

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