NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. - PCR tests for COVID-19 are becoming less invasive and more accessible.
Northwell Health is rolling out a more efficient way to test for COVID-19. Automation helps simplify the process allowing for 10 times more testing at one-tenth of the cost.
"Individuals go on a website, they register and swab themselves," Dr. Tylis Chang, the vice chair of pathology at Northwell Health, told FOX 5 NY.
And the swabs are basically a polyester tip that goes just inside the nostril, four times on each side. Doctors find it to be just as accurate as the current testing methods for COVID-19.
"It's basically a Q-tip in a plastic container," Chang said. "You swab the front of your nose. It's not a brain biopsy. You close it and scan the container."
Right now, the FDA requires people to be monitored as they swab themselves with the PCR test but the hope is for the general public to be able to do it on their own, unobserved, and then drop it off at the nearest Northwell Health collection center.
The self-administered test, dubbed LabGold, is FDA-approved like other COVID-19 tests and is covered by most insurance companies. It was funded in part by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The technology has been used in the agriculture industry to test food crops.
The machine works with 384 samples at a time on a continuous basis and can run up to 100,000 samples a day. When fully rolled out, the testing will deliver results within 24 hours. Doctors hope one day the little swab can test for other viruses, even the common cold.
"There's very little human handling of the samples when they come," Dr. Dwayne Breining, the executive director of Northwell Health Laboratories, said. "They're very safe and very error-proof. Having a vending machine that dispenses these is potentially a reality."
Other possible uses include schools, large employers, and big events.