The largest US non-profit patient safety organization evaluated 7 COVID-19 rapid tests and found serious deficiencies in usability; none were rated "excellent."
The near instant US spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus drove consumer demand for COVID-19 rapid tests up so quickly that supply problems were immediate. Now the country’s largest patient safety organization has found serious gaps in usability among 7 it tested recently.
ECRI experts report that none of the tests were rated “excellent” and usability concerns for some were noteworthy, according to an organization statement.
“Our evaluation shows that some rapid tests are much easier to use than others,” said Marcus Schabacker, MD, PhD, president and CEO of ECRI. “If given options, consumers should choose tests that are the easiest to use because when a test is difficult for a consumer to use, it may lead to an inaccurate result.”
The organization’s report, Usability of COVID-19 Antigen Home Test Kits, provides ease of use ratings based on the System Usability Scale (SUS), as well as reviewer pros and cons for the 7 rapid antigen tests below. Kits were purchased based on availability through online and retail stores in December 2021. The SUS rates products on a 0-100 scale with 100 being the easiest to use. Top and bottom tests reviewed were separated by more than 30 points.
COVID-19 at-home rapid antigen tests.
Analysts at ECRI note in the statement that some of the tests require particularly fine motor control or provide instructions in print so small it may be difficult for older adults or those with limiting health conditions to use the tests correctly. ECRI also notes that it is often adults in these groups who are more susceptible to the infection and to more severe complications.
ECRI president and CEO Schabacker observes that because of the demand and supply issues, consumers may not be able to choose a specific rapid test and have to rely on whatever is available. He advises that before administering a home test consumers do some research so that they are aware of the specific usability concerns and can try to mitigate any factors that may lead to an inaccurate result.
ECRI, an independent nonprofit organization advancing effective, evidenced-based healthcare globally, self-funded this usability study of home COVID-19 antigen tests as a public service to consumers and healthcare providers. ECRI has no financial ties to the test manufacturers and all employees abide by the strictest conflict-of-interest policies that assure our objectivity.