07|08|2020

DON’T BE MISLEAD BY “RAPID” COVID TESTS

There are numerous reasons that someone may need to be tested for COVID-19 infection. One may have recently traveled or be planning to travel, they may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 at work or at a social event, they may be experiencing symptoms, or they may be required to be tested before returning to work.  

covid test

Whatever the case may be, when we feel we need to be tested, we all prefer a rapid result over waiting.  But even more important than just getting rapid results, we want a reliable answer to the question, “Am I infected?”  And finally, we don’t want to be charged an unfair price for the answer.

Conveniently, there are several rapid tests available in our community. However, it’s important to understand that the reliability of the rapid tests varies considerably.  Just because a test may yield fast results, they may not yield accurate results.  Furthermore, some of the facilities in town are charging ER visit prices for nothing more than running one of these less accurate tests.

Therefore, quickly and accurately determining if you are infected is not as simple as finding a place that can provide a rapid test.  So, what’s the best way to get a reliable test as soon as possible?

There are 2 important considerations.  First, ensure that wherever you will receive the test plans to have you evaluated by a medical provider who can help you choose the right test at the right time in the right quantity, etc.  Failure to do so can result in inaccurate results or confusion about the implications of your results.  Furthermore, a provider evaluation will provide instructions, answer questions and arrange follow-up when needed.

Second, ensure that wherever you seek screening uses the most accurate test available.  There are currently three types of tests available, and each has its strengths and weaknesses.

PCR-based tests: 

  • These nasal swab tests are currently the “gold standard” of testing, meaning these tests now provide the most reliable results regardless of whether they are positive or negative.   When possible, it is always best to opt for a PCR based test over other options. 
  • PCR send out tests:  Most PCR tests are currently “sent out” to a reference lab. Unfortunately, with the exploding demand for these around the state and country, the results sometimes require several days.
  • PCR rapid test: This test is the best combination of reliability and rapid results, producing equal accuracy as the send out test but with results usually in less than an hour.

“Rapid” Antigen-based tests: 

  • These are currently the most available tests and provide rapid results based on a nasal or oral swab.  However, while positive results are reliablenegative results are not reliable.  Since over 90% of tests will be negative, this leaves lots of patients unable to answer their primary question. In fact, a negative result requires receiving a follow-up, PCR based test, anyway.

Antibody-based tests:

  • These are the least useful tests for determining if a person is actively infected.  As antibodies are produced at the conclusion of an infection, this test is most useful for establishing if a person was previously infected.  These are readily available but require a blood sample.

What testing is available at CapRock?

At CapRock, we believe it is our ethical obligation to screen patients as accurately and quickly as possible.  This requires a thorough provider evaluation to discuss the timing and nature of exposure, underlying conditions, current medications, home and work situations, etc.  We currently provide most of these evaluations through our very convenient telehealth process.  (maybe link to our blog or commercial about telehealth?) And almost always, our screenings include providing a reliable test. 

Due to our commitment to provide the most accurate results available,  CapRock does not perform “Rapid” Antigen-based tests.  We only offer PCR-based tests, including the “Rapid” version. CapRock currently is the only organization in Bryan/College Station performing rapid PCR tests, therefore, there is understandably high demand for them.  Thereforeat times, CapRock providers are unable to offer rapid testing.  When in limited supply, rapid testing is offered based on priority determined by the circumstances of the individual.  

Either way, CapRock never bills patients for an ER visit for COVID-19 screenings.  These are provided through our Urgent Cares and Telehealth and are billed at Urgent Care prices.  Fortunately, all commercial insurance plans completely cover the cost of COVID-19 screening at our urgent cares.  So at CapRock, a COVID-19 screening will include a thorough provider evaluation and the fastest, most reliable test available at minimal cost.Click here more information on COVID-19 testing at CapRock.