The team at Innerbody has reviewed hundreds of at home health tests. Along with the rest of the world, we’ve been asking, “when is an at-home test going to be available for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19?”
June 2020 Update –
After a bumpy start with supply chain issues and concerns and confusion surrounding FDA authorizations, at-home testing for COVID-19 is now available. There are a few options for FDA-authorized at-home testing to check if you are infected with COVID-19; tests are now available from several companies:
These authorized tests meet the FDA’s standards for accuracy. (At this time, Nurx and its lab partner Molecular Testing Labs currently no longer offer their throat swab COVID-19 test, which was a throat swab test.)
In order to purchase one of these novel coronavirus tests, you must be symptomatic; a straightforward process of submitting some information about the symptoms you’re experiencing will allow the test providers to determine that you are a candidate for testing. Read on to learn more about these tests – accuracy, pricing, speed and the process of taking the test.
- Testing at home maintains social distancing and sheltering in place.
- Labs conform to FDA Emergency Use Authorization requirements for COVID-19 testing.
- Results within several days.
- Nasopharyngeal swab test is reliable and straightforward to administer.
- Saliva test available for those who don’t want to swab.
- Consultation available for those who test positive for novel coronavirus.
- Tests aren’t free (though you can potentially cover with insurance or HSA/FSA money).
- In-person tests, where available, are faster.
As supply chain issues continue to improve and available test volumes grow, we all will see authorized tests become available from a wider group of telehealth and in-person healthcare providers. Your choice of at-home test for novel coronavirus infection really is a matter of preference and comfort. Whether nasal swab or saliva sample, you will need to follow instructions carefully to ensure accuracy of the results. But if you follow the directions, either test method will be as reliable in identifying an active COVID-19 infection. To test for past exposure rather than active illness, you want the antibody test (available from HealthLabs).
Lastly, if you are seriously ill, consult with your healthcare provider and seek needed medical attention.
A trusted company, a proven test method, high-quality lab partners, and the safety of remaining home.
The test arrives fast, and you get results within 2 days. Follow the instructions carefully and you can discover whether you have COVID-19, without having to leave home at all. At $135, it’s the cheapest at-home test option.
Not only is testing in general a vital component of fighting the spread of COVID-19 infection, but testing at home has several benefits.
- Our medical centers can remain focused on providing care to confirmed cases of COVID-19
- If a person is truly infected with COVID-19, the at-home coronavirus test prevents him or her from inadvertently exposing others to risk by leaving home
- In many communities, people are staying home as much as possible
- Even if you’re symptomatic, you may not have coronavirus, of course (one reason why testing is so important). By letting you stay home while still proactively testing, the testing for coronavirus at home prevents you from being infected through exposure elsewhere, if you are weakened by illness but not infected with COVID-19.
Coronavirus testing at home can help us diagnose and fight COVID-19 without risking further exposure and spread of virus. Of course, if you’re seriously ill already – or if you’re symptomatic and have underlying health conditions that statistically make your COVID-19 risks higher (like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer or lung disease, for example), you should consult with your healthcare provider immediately.
PCR tests for active infection
A PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test for COVID-19 can determine if there is an active, living virus in your body. Currently, a PCR test is the only test able to assess if you are infected with the novel coronavirus and actively contagious to others. It is typically administered with a nasal swab that takes a sample from the back of your nose – as with the at-home tests from Everywell and LetsGetChecked.
However, a new saliva-based test developed by Rutgers University’s RUCDR Infinite Biologics lab has recently gained FDA authorization as well and is available for purchase from Hims/Hers. This COVID-19 test doesn’t require a swab at all, but instead only requires the collection of saliva, making it much easier to self-administer.
PCR tests are sent to a lab and typically take 1-2 days to get a result. Because of lab involvement, PCR tests are not cheap.
During the traditional nasal swab procedure, it is very common for those tested to sneeze and spread potentially contagious respiratory droplets. The healthcare worker who administers the test must be in protective clothing and wear a mask to minimize their exposure. Then, they sometimes need to change or clean the protective clothing in between each test, further slowing the PCR testing process. This is another advantage of people administering their own test at home.
IgG or IgM (antibody) tests for past exposure
IgG or IgM (Immunoglobulin) tests for COVID-19 measure the antibodies in your blood that are produced after you have had the virus. If you are exposed to COVID-19 in the past, your body’s immune response produces antibodies, which will be detected by these tests even well after you were initially exposed. While IgG / IgM tests can’t determine if you currently have the virus, reliable antibody tests will be very useful for helping us understand who has been infected and how COVID-19 has spread.
These tests are far less expensive to produce and could one day be administered at home. IgG / IgM tests require a simple finger prick to draw a small amount of blood, similar to a blood glucose test taken at home by millions each year. Results are ready within 15 minutes.
Until at-home antibody tests are authorized and become available, HealthLabs is a very good way to order one of these tests. HealthLabs partners with over 4,500 certified labs across the country, making it likely that there is at least one lab nearby most Americans (in some cases, there are numerous labs nearby). The antibody test offered through HealthLabs is the most accurate antibody test available anywhere in the United States – with 100% sensitivity and 99.6% specificity. That is very accurate indeed.
|What it tests||Active infection||Active infection||Active infection||Past exposure (immune response)|
|Geographic availability||Not NY, NJ, MD or RI||Not NY, NJ, MD or RI||Everywhere||Everywhere|
|Test method||Nasal swab||Nasal swab||Saliva||Blood|
|Where you test||At home||At home||At home||In nearby lab|
|How fast are results?||3-5 days from purchase||2-5 days from purchase||3-5 days from day you ship specimen||1-2 days from lab visit|
Innerbody Research will continue reviewing the developments in this space. Information about COVID-19 is changing rapidly, so check back for updates and stay healthy out there.
There are several at-home COVID-19 tests currently authorized by the FDA under its Emergency Use Authorization.
- Saliva test designed by Rutgers University’s RUCDR Infinite Biologics lab and available for purchase from Hims/Hers.
- Nasal swab test offered by Everywell.
- Nasal swab test offered by LetsGetChecked.
- Nasal swab test by LabCorp’s Pixel.
These are tests designed to report whether you have an active novel coronavirus infection (as opposed to antibody tests, which check for immune response that indicates past exposure.)
FDA authorization isn’t exactly the same thing as FDA approval, which has caused some confusion. These tests were authorized under the FDA’s “Emergency Use Authorization”, or EUA. In order for the FDA give this authorization, the tests must demonstrate that they can meet accuracy standards high enough to satisfy the FDA.
1. Complete a questionnaire to order your test
Once you order a test from the company of your choice, you will need to fill in some information about your symptoms in order to purchase it. Medical staff will review your situation and reach out if necessary for further clarification. If your symptoms qualify you, then you will complete your purchase and receive the kit at home. The kit will include everything you need in order to perform the test right at home, as well as everything you need to mail your test sample back prepaid to the lab.
2. Follow the instructions to collect your test sample
Everlywell and LetsGetChecked both use a nasal swab method. The nasal swab looks like a long Q-tip. Meanwhile, the test you purchase from Hims or Hers uses a saliva sample, a collection process that is much more straightforward.
Regardless of which test you have chosen, be sure to follow the instructions carefully in order to guarantee high accuracy of the test. The testing process should only take a few minutes.
3. Package and mail your sample back
Carefully follow the instructions on repackaging and mailing your sample back to the lab for analysis. Your shipping will be prepaid and fast and will go directly to a CLIA-certified lab, which will complate your test to determine if you have novel coronavirus or if the test results are negative.
4. Getting your results, and next steps
With any of these companies, your results should be available in a couple or few days. Everlywell and LetsGetChecked can produce test results within 3-5 or 2-5 days of ordering your kit, respectively. Hims and Hers will have results of the saliva test within 3-5 days of you putting your saliva sample in the mail.
If your test comes back positive (i.e., you’ve got the novel coronavirus), then your next step will be to seek medical advice. Even when your test is negative, informing your trusted primary care provider is a good idea. If you test with Everlywell, the company will automatically put you in consultation (for free) with a physician who will give you advice about what to do next. Testing with LetsGetChecked, you can reach out to the company and get in touch with a medical expert as well for consult.
This at-home test for coronavirus is the culmination of a $1 million investment by Everlywell, launched on March 8 2020, to develop at-home testing capabilities as rapidly as possible for COVID-19. Everlywell’s aim was to help address the dire need for more testing in the United States. With their home testing platform and standing relationships with labs across the US, they sought to incentivize development partners to bring a home test to market quickly.
“As the COVID-19 public health emergency continues to worsen with community spread across the United States, there is an unmet medical need to broaden the access to testing for SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in a responsible manner to complement and help alleviate the potential overload on healthcare systems and healthcare providers if testing was only available in the limited clinical setting,” said Dr. Frank Ong, M.D., Chief Medical and Scientific Officer of Everlywell.
The response from the laboratory community was swift and enthusiastic.
What does Everlywell's test cost?
Everywell’s coronavirus test costs $109, which includes overnight shipping in both directions.
Everlywell makes no profit from this test. They are trying to work with the government to provide tests completely free of charge, but that has not been possible to achieve yet. However, the test can be covered by HSA and FSA partners.
For a little more money than Everlywell, you have two other options, both of which are authorized by the FDA and therefore meet the benchmarks for high enough accuracy to do so. These test providers will require that you provide information about your current symptoms, which a health professional in the company will then review to determine if you should receive a test.
There is one reason why you might be more inclined to buy the at-home coronavirus test from Hims/Hers than the other companies. It isn’t price, because the test will cost you a little more ($150). And it isn’t speed either – the process from start to finish is comparable to Everlywell’s.
The reason to opt for this test is the fact that it’s a saliva test rather than a nasal swab test. Those who have done a swab test know that it is not the most pleasant experience, unfortunately. Though self-administered swab tests have proven to be as highly accurate as those performed by a professional, nonetheless some people have been concerned about the potential for lower accuracy due to the discomfort caused by nasal swabs. The saliva test should ease those particular concerns with at-home testing, because it is a very straightforward process and there is no discomfort at all.
LetsGetChecked also offers a nasal swab test. At $129, it costs just slightly more money than Everlywell’s. Having received FDA authorization, this test kit has comparable accuracy and, depending on your location, could yield results possible a day sooner than with Everlywell’s testing process.
Is at-home coronavirus testing reliable?
Everlywell and LetsGetChecked are a recognized and trusted at-home test kit providers, while Hims and Hers have become trusted names in telehealth and, more recently, telemedicine. All at-home coronavirus test samples will be analyzed by CLIA-certified labs that fully comply with the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization for COVID-19 testing.
Is the testing experience private?
All of these telehealth companies are fully HIPAA-compliant. They will never sell any of your information. Your digital coronavirus test results are available only to you to access in a secure interface.
For public health reasons, positive test results will be reported to federal and state agencies as mandated by law.
What are symptoms of novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Knowing if you have symptoms of novel coronavirus is very important for getting tested; tests are prioritized for those who are symptomatic, due to ongoing limits in supply. If you are symptomatic, it is important for your health and the wellbeing of those around you that you get tested. Symptoms may commonly include:
- Dry cough
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Digestive issues like diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing (in severe cases)
Importantly, not everyone exhibits the same symptoms or all of the above. Symptoms can begin anywhere between 2-14 days after exposure.