By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With all the difficulties and delays in getting COVID-19 test results, UnitedHealth Group could be onto a big breakthrough.

It is a self-administered test that is less invasive but just as accurate.

Only widespread, accurate COVID-19 testing will tell the scope of this pandemic. And while essential, the present clinician dependent test is no walk in the park.

“Yes, it’s not too comfortable,” says Travis Krulikosky.

He had his throat and nasals swabbed nearly two weeks ago but is still awaiting the results.

“It felt as far as they could get up on both sides of your nostrils, it didn’t feel so good,” explained Krulikosky,

Now, a far more comfortable test is at hand. UnitedHealth Group’s Research & Development, along with OptumCare clinicians just finished a study of 500 Washington state patients.

The study demonstrated the effectiveness of a much simpler patient-administered nasal swab. Instead of clinicians collecting the sample, patients will use much smaller swabs to collect their own.

“The test is the same but it’s the process of collection that’s different,” explains UHC’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Robert Kantor.

The week-long study has shown the self-swab is less invasive, easier to perform and produces the same 90% accuracy rate as a clinician-administered test.

“The collection swab is a short standard medical swab that a patient can use,” adds Dr. Kantor.

But most critically, self-sampling keeps healthcare workers from direct patient contact. Once the sample is taken it’s handed over to a clinician, sealed and sent to the lab for analysis.

“It keeps the supply of personal protection equipment for the needs we have that continue to exist. It is also more comfortable for the patient to have the test done. It’s a game-changer in many ways,” explains Dr. Kantor.

Bill Hudson