Within a year of the arrival of Covid-19, the United States has developed several Covid-19 tests, multiple treatments and several vaccines. It’s not surprising that patients become confused about what service or treatment is appropriate for which situation. This article is the first of a two-part series designed to help clear up some of the confusion regarding Covid-19 testing and treatments.
Basic Covid-19 services begin with testing. There are four types of Covid-19 tests available through RMH.
Three types of these tests are designed to show whether or not a person has Covid-19 at the time of testing. They are: the rapid Covid-19 antigen test, the rapid Covid-19 molecular test and the standard non-rapid Covid-19 blood test.
Patients with Symptoms
The rapid Covid-19 antigen test
• Does not require a provider referral
• Is used for patients showing Covid-19 symptoms
• Is performed on site and is complete in 15 to 20 minutes. Results are delivered directly to patients.
• Requires a swab from the front of the nasal cavity rather than the nasopharynx (far back portion of the nose), which is more comfortable
• Is less sensitive to the presence of the virus (which is why it is only used on those with symptoms)
• Is available through the Free Drive Thru Covid Testing Clinic sponsored by the Indiana Department of Health and located behind the RMH Walk-In Clinic.
The rapid Covid-19 molecular test
• Requires a referral from a healthcare provider
• Is used for patients who show Covid-19 symptoms
• Is performed at RMH and is complete in 1 hour. Results are added quickly to the patient portal so the patient can access the report.
• Requires a swab from the nasopharynx, (far back portion of the nose), which is more uncomfortable than the nasal swab. Can be less sensitive to the presence of the virus than the non-rapid standard covid-19 test
• It is available when being seen by any RMH provider on campus.
• Is billed to the patient/insurance provider.
Patients without Symptoms
The non-rapid Standard Covid-19 test
• Requires a referral from a healthcare provider if performed through an RMH facility.
• Does not require a referral if performed through the state-sponsored Free Curbside Covid-19 Clinic located behind the RMH Walk-In Clinic.
• Is used for patients who do not have any symptoms of Covid-19
• Results are available in 2-3 days, depending on whether testing is done at RMH, where results are available sooner, or at the Indiana Department of Health, where results take a bit longer.
• Requires a swab from the nasopharynx, which is uncomfortable.
• Can be more sensitive to the presence of the virus (which is why it is better for those who do not have any symptoms) than the rapid tests.
• Is billed to the patient/insurance provider if performed at RMH.
In order to schedule an appointment for the free, state-sponsored Covid-19 Curbside Clinic, visit www.scheduling.coronovirus.in.gov . (This site also gives the locations of other free drive thru Covid-19 testing sites.) When arriving at the clinic, patients should call the phone number listed on clinic signage. Curbside testing is free.
Often patients are eager to have the rapid test because they want to know immediately if they have the virus. However, if a person doesn’t have any symptoms, using the less sensitive, rapid test, could simply give a result that is not accurate. This is why the health department, which is funding free testing in Indiana, requires that patients must have symptoms in order to receive the rapid test. Drive thru testing clinics like the one at RMH must follow state guidelines for all free testing, because this testing is being sponsored by the state.
If patients need to have a doctor’s note or wish to have an appointment, they should visit the Walk-In Care office.
All patients who test positive are given information about next steps.
The fourth Covid-19 test offered at RMH is the “Covid-19 antibody test”. This is a blood test designed to tell if the patient has either 1) had Covid-19 in the past or 2) has been exposed to Covid-19 at some point. The test detects the presence of Covid-19 antibodies in the blood. Antibodies are substances in the blood that fight off disease. The presence of Covid-19 antibodies in the blood indicates that the body is better prepared to fight off the disease if exposed to it again. It is not yet known how long these antibodies will last.
If the antibody test is negative, this indicates that the person has not already developed antibodies to the virus. The antibody test does not show whether or not the patient has Covid-19 at the time of testing. It is possible to have Covid-19 without any symptoms and still have a negative antibody test because the body simply has not yet had enough time to develop antibodies. The Covid-19 antibody test:
• Does not require a referral from a healthcare provider
• Is performed through the RMH Laboratory
• Costs $55 and is usually not covered by insurance other than Medicare. The fee must be paid at the time of service for non-Medicare patients.
• Results are available within 24 hours.
If a patient tests positive for Covid-19, the choice of which treatment to use is made by a healthcare provider. Treatment depends on the type and severity of the patient’s symptoms, age, other health care conditions. In the next article, Covid-19 treatment options will be discussed.