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Cleveland Clinic Switches To Self-Swab Tests

The Cleveland Clinic is tweaking the way it tests patients for COVID-19. Patients tested at the Clinic's drive-through testing site, near the main campus in Cleveland, will now do a self-administered nasal swab.

The test is different than the nasopharyngeal swab test used at some other Cleveland hospitals. University Hospitals and MetroHealth Systems, for example, will still use staff to take samples from patients in the drive-through testing centers.

The  Cleveland Clinic is switching to the new system, where patients use the swab to collect their own nasal specimens because it is more comfortable, and patients can do it themselves, with supervision, clinic officials said.

For Dr. Dan Rhoads testing the samples in the clinic's laboratory, it will look the same. But it should feel different and be safer for the healthcare workers supervising the test, Rhoads said.

"There should be less of a tendency to cough or produce any kind of droplets that could potentially contaminate the healthcare worker's protective equipment or potentially expose somebody to the virus,” he said.

The effectiveness is the same for both tests, Dr. Rhoads said. 

“I'm hoping it lowers the barrier to getting more people willing to be tested,” he said.

Moving to a patient-collected nasal swab will also help to preserve the personal protective gear that healthcare workers wear, allowing resources to be allocated to areas of greatest need, clinic officials said in a written statement.

University Hospitals officials said in a written statement that the self-administered test can be reliable.

“COVID-19 diagnostic testing relies on high-quality sample collection for accurate results,” University Hospitals said. “When appropriately performed and collected, self-swabbing can be a reliable way of COVID-19 diagnostic sample collection that minimizes PPE utilization.”

Earlier in the pandemic, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requested that health officials use the nasopharyngeal swab, which the clinic is no longer using. The agency removed that preference, however, in April.

These recommendations have continued to change as more research comes out about the coronavirus, Rhoads said.


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