At-Home Diagnostics Post-Pandemic
(Thursday, March 10, 2022)
The US government shipped free home tests for Covid to every home in the US. The magnitude of this event should not be lost. It is the first time that home tests for any infectious disease got such a strong endorsement from the Federal government. Does this indicate that home tests for other infectious diseases are going to become more common? The last two years saw an unprecedented surge in the use of rapid diagnostics worldwide. These tests were credited for controlling the spread of infections in many countries and were trusted by populations. Prior to the pandemic home diagnostic tests were primarily popular for informational tests such as pregnancy and glucose monitoring for diabetes patients. Infectious diseases almost exclusively were tested for at the doctor’s offices or at laboratories. That changed with the pandemic. Rapid testing for Covid remains a critical tool for screening patients and controlling the spread. Now that the pandemic is seemingly winding down, similar rapid home tests for other indications may become popular as well. The concept of home testing and associated measures has been well-tested thanks to the pandemic. And an enormous infrastructure to develop and market such tests is available, now that we probably need fewer tests for Covid. It does not seem unreasonable to envision similar home tests for flu, strep-throat, hepatitis, HIV, and other infectious diseases. Other than infectious diseases, home tests can be used for blood testing and even cancers. The challenge is that unlike Covid, where the best option for infected individuals was to quarantine, for infections such strep-throat and HIV, the diagnosis is linked to prescriptions. Most of the rapid tests are very close in their sensitivity and accuracy to those done in laboratories, so one can imagine patients testing themselves at their homes, and then contacting their physicians for prescriptions. In the immediate future, the prescribers will likely re-test to confirm before writing the prescription, but one can expect that over time home tests could become the sole diagnostic tests for patient management particularly for tele medicine and remote healthcare programs for common health issues. The pandemic has given the home tests a new life; the industry it boosted is looking to flourish beyond the pandemic.
Dr. Mukesh Kumar
Founder & CEO, FDAMap
Linkedin: Mukesh Kumar, PhD, RAC