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Kroger Health Gets FDA Approval For At-home COVID-19 Tests. But What Are The Risks And Benefits?

Photo of a young man in bed with a computer on his lap talking to a doctor.
iStock.com / YakobchukOlena
At-home COVID-19 testing will include a telehealth session to walk the patient through the process.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved an Emergency Use Authorization for an at-home COVID-19 test from Kroger Health, a division of the same company that owns Smith’s Food and Drug in Utah. The test will be available to Utah companies and organizations by the end of July. 

Patients will be screened online to get a prescription for the test. The kit arrives by mail in a day or two, and patients will take the test under telehealth supervision at home, according to a press release from Kroger. 

Kroger said it plans to process 60,000 COVID-19 tests every week across the country.

Todd Vento, an infectious disease doctor at Intermountain Healthcare, said there are benefits and risks to this type of at-home testing. On the plus side, he said, is that patients can do everything from their house, limiting the possibility of community spread.

“I think there's some advantages there in that the patient isn't exposing people at say a clinic, a lab or at a testing center,” Vento said. 

He also said the tests won’t require personal protective equipment, like gowns, gloves and face masks, which instead can be saved for potential surges in hospital cases

Most tests administered by healthcare providers use a deeper nasal swab, according to Vento. At-home tests use a swab sample from the lower part of the nostril, which Vento said have a higher false negative rate.

“That's always a concern, because now if you go on about your business and go to work, and you don't isolate, you're actually running the risk of spreading it to people,” Vento said.

Vento also said healthcare providers don’t get constant supervision with patients during at home testing, which could lead to cross contamination and patients sending in samples from other household members. 

And without face-to-face interaction, Vento said, doctors will have to be more aggressive with counseling measures to make sure patients know the importance of quarantining.

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