MontCo group finds most COVID-19 at-home tests need improvement

ECRI, a Montgomery County patient-safety non-profit, put seven top-selling over-the-counter kits to the test.
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- At-home COVID-19 test kits may help you avoid long lines at testing centers. But which ones are easiest to use? And can you trust that you did it right?

ECRI, a Montgomery County patient-safety non-profit, put seven top-selling over-the-counter kits to the test.

Because the tests are FDA-regulated, they may work, but the big question is: can the average person handle them well at home? Are the directions clear? How effectively are we collecting the samples?

Volunteers tried the tests and rated them from 0 to 100.

None of the tests received an "excellent" score, and more than 30 points separated the top and bottom ones.

Here are the results -
1. On/Go - Very Good - 82.9 points.
2. CareStart - Very Good - 80.8 points
3. Flowflex - Very Good - 79.5 points

4. QuickVue - Good - 75.6 points
5. BinaxNOW - Good - 73.3 points
6. InteliSwab - Good - 73.3 points
7. BD Veritor - Okay - 51.8 points.

Abbott's BinaxNOW, the test most frequently given out by local health departments and organizations, tied with InteliSwab for 5th/6th place with 73.3 points.

ECRI president and CEO Dr. Marcus Schabacker says a difficult test can be a problem.

"It's still a chemical reaction, it's still a scientific process which is happening, and there's a lot of variables, which, if you don't pay attention to them, they might give you a wrong result," said Schabacker.

He said people with vision or dexterity problems could easily make mistakes.

"I think of my 85-year-old mother, her doing that test, I'm not so sure," he said.

Click here for ECRI's full report

Among the chief complaints were hard-to-read instructions, with very small print, or in the case of the BD Veritor test, no printed instructions at all, just a cell phone app to download the instructional video.

"You need to have a cell phone or a computer to download the app, and you need the computer literacy to do that," he notes.

Users also can't rewind the video to check a step, but have to watch the whole video again,

Some solution vials were also hard to open, or easy to spill.

"There are little vials with caps on, and if you have some arthritis, or if you have Parkinson's, or an elder person with poor vision, that might be difficult to undo," said Schabacker

"In one particular test, the nasal swab was very uncomfortable," he said, adding that the instructions called for 15 swirls inside the nasal passage, compared to the 5 required for most other tests.

In the case of the BinaxNOW and the QuickVue test, lines were too faint to read.

One complaint for all the tests was that instructions were only in English and Spanish.

Schabacker hopes test makers take the ratings seriously and improve their products.
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