MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group says it has developed a new COVID-19 test method that allows patients to test themselves.
On Wednesday, UnitedHealth Group said a study led by its research team and OptumCare clinicians has demonstrated that a “simple, self-collected test is as effective in identifying COVID-19 infections as the current clinician-collected test.”
The test is less invasive, too, and only requires the patient to swab the front part of the nostril and midnose. The current test regimen requires a trained health care worker to collect samples from deep inside the patient’s nasal cavity.
“Making simple, patient-administered testing widely available will substantially improve testing efficiency, while protecting health care workers and preserving urgently needed personal protective equipment, such as face masks, gowns and gloves,” said study-lead Dr. Yuan-Po Tu, an infectious disease expert at The Everett Clinic, part of OptumCare.
The study found the self-administered tests accurately detected COVID-19 in more than 90% of positive patients — consistent with tests done by clinicians.
UnitedHealth Group says the Food and Drug Administration has updated its guidance to health care providers, which will allow patients nationwide to self-administer swab tests for COVID-19.
The study included nearly 500 patients at OptumCare facilities in Washington state.
UnitedHealth Group will reportedly be rolling out the new tests at its hard-hit Seattle area clinics.
UnitedHealth Group is based in Minnetonka.