HomeHealthTake a COVID test at home? A new NIH website offers...

Take a COVID test at home? A new NIH website offers a way to report your results.

Americans now have a way to anonymously report their home COVID-19 test results to health authorities: a new website from the National Institutes of Health, Announced this week. Officials expect the results to be collected via the new site: makemytestcount.org — will fill some of the data gap left after many people turned to home COVID-19 tests instead of the lab tests that authorities had watched closely before the pandemic.

Federal health officials have faced calls for more than a year to implement a mechanism to better track home tests. Last week saw just 2.3 million in total COVID-19 tests – both positive and negative – reported by laboratories to CDC. That is the lowest level since the first months of the pandemic. The scale of at-home tests is probably “dwarfed,” estimates Bruce Tromberg, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

Federal health authorities have warned for months that publicly reported COVID tests are vastly underestimating community spread of the virus. That complicates a variety of efforts that have relied on case counts, from issuing recommendations on when Americans should wear masks to measuring the effectiveness of COVID vaccines.

And Tromberg, who also heads the NIH’s RADx program that spearheaded the development of the website, says the effort could be a key step in making it easier for doctors to have their patients screened and treated for infectious diseases.

“This is really kind of an essential companion piece to home testing development. It’s part of the arc of moving testing from labs to home and creating a pathway that enables reliable and accurate transmission of that information.” Tromberg said in an interview with CBS News.

The website is just the latest entry in a behind-the-scenes network. infrastructure The federal government has poured resources into development over the course of the pandemic, standardizing how this type of data could be shared securely between health authorities and doctors.

Some mobile apps developed by testing companies can already use this pipeline to send their results to public health systems. The platform had already been implemented as well to enable outcome reporting through the NIH At Home “Say Yes!” test pilots.

The Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response is also working on a way the website could be brought into the Biden administration. “test to treat” initiative, connecting people who test positive with COVID treatments like Pfizer’s Paxlovid.

“What if you could do a test at home and then relay this information to your healthcare provider and then get your treatment at home? You need to have this kind of spine,” Tromberg said.

The Food and Drug Administration could also ask test manufacturers to add the website to their chart in hopes of raising awareness of the new site, he suggested.

“We’re hoping states will come together and announce the QR code, and it’ll just come out. So people don’t say, ‘God, I don’t know how to report my test.'” Tromberg said.

In addition to whether the tests are positive or negative, the portal asks people to provide their age and zip code. Other details such as race and whether you have symptoms can also be provided, although answering these additional questions is optional.

Tromberg said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is “very interested” in potentially publishing the data collected through the site, possibly incorporating the numbers into its weekly updates on the virus.

However, the self-reported figures will be an imperfect solution for scientists frustrated with the growing obstacles to tracking this stage of the pandemic.

Not all Americans will be interested or know how to report their test results, Tromberg acknowledged, and some might do so incorrectly.

β€œIt’s just another data point. And I think it’s one of those things where it’s very easy to say, ‘well, we don’t need that.’ But the fact is, any way you look at it, the lab tests are a very, very small understanding of the total number of people who are getting tested,” Tromberg added.

The CDC did not return a request for comment for this story.

Officials have raised other alternatives in the search for a “basic truth” about virus infections. One proposal has been to model surveillance on the UK approach, which is based on ongoing cohort studies and surveys.

“It’s remarkable that analysts in the UK basically don’t use case counts very much, because they have this much better source of data for their models,” said Marc Lipsitch, chief forecasting science officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Disease Prevention a may interview with New England Journal of Medicine.

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