Tech Matters: What to look for from a COVID-19 testing service

Medical Assistant Christina Bodily, left, and Cindy Servantes test patients for COVID-19 on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, at the Intermountain Healthcare North Ogden InstaCare Clinic drive-through testing site.

With COVID-19 cases reaching record highs in Utah, it is likely that you or someone you know will seek a test in the near future. The procedure has progressed rapidly in just the last few months thanks to the medical research community for providing reliable, non-invasive tests and, just as important, the network-based infrastructure that we are all so familiar with like online forms, databases and email.

You no longer need a doctor’s recommendation to be tested and you can test multiple times, which wasn’t the case as recently as last July. This last bit is important because if you test too close to exposure and you don’t have symptoms, you may get a false negative and inadvertently infect others.

I had my first test last Friday after my daughter Elizabeth, a mobility specialist for children with vision loss, tested positive for COVID earlier in the week. As usual, we had a small family dinner on Sunday, but for the first time in months ate inside because it was just a little too cold to eat on the patio. We spent an hour around the table, which meant we were all exposed to the virus.

The Utah Health Department and the human resources department at Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind recommended testing on day five from the day of exposure. In the meantime, we all self-isolated and checked in several times a day on our group text to monitor for symptoms.

As Friday rolled around, we had to make a decision as to where we would be tested. My son’s employer, Ken Garff, recommended Premier Diagnostics (PD), while the girls went to a local clinic. Other than the PD location was 25 minutes away versus 10, it offered a faster, more convenient service than what you are likely to find at a clinic or hospital. And for my Ogden readers, there is a PD testing facility about 10 minutes south of downtown on Ridgeline Drive, which is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Based on my Premier Diagnostics experience, here are the features you should look for when choosing a testing facility. First, look for a drive-thru site to avoid having to go into a building with potentially sick people. Don’t expect anything fancy — I took my test in a multi-level parking garage without leaving the car. Second, make sure a saliva test is available, which you can do yourself without discomfort. And third, if you have insurance, the test should be free, no co-pay.

An ideal service provider will have an easy-to-navigate website that requires you to register online. It should include the standard personal data, along with your insurance card (take a photo of the physical card with your phone or download a PDF of your card from your health insurance provider) and a photo of your driver’s license for identity verification.

By providing all of the information online, you can then visit the facility at your convenience. An employee will come to the window of your car and ask for your name, which is then checked against the provider’s registration records. Once confirmed, you’ll be given a small sealed package with the testing apparatus.

Premier Diagnostics uses the saliva-based PCR test to detect the COVID-19 virus. All you have to do is spit enough saliva to reach a clearly marked fill line on a plastic test tube. You then take a stopper filled with blue liquid and screw that onto the top of the tube, which punctures the seal to allow the liquid to flow into the test tube. Shake for 15 seconds and hand it over. The saliva samples are transported to a processing lab located in South Jordan.

The last part of the process to check is the results piece, how long it will take to get your results and how they will be delivered. You should receive an email from the test provider with a unique test number shortly after you take your test. For the results, 24 hours is a reasonable period to wait, but there may be up to a 48-hour wait if an unusually high number of tests are being processed. You should be able to check your results online using your test number along with a specified piece of personal information like your birthdate. Using two pieces of information instead of just a test number helps ensure the correct results are given to you.

If you or a family member has reason to believe you’ve been exposed to the virus, get tested. It is critical that we learn as much as we can about COVID and that can only happen when people are tested.

Source: Standard Examiner