Back to blog

Returning to Work: Q&A on At-Home COVID-19 Testing for Businesses

employee benefitscovid-19employersantibody testingPCR testingMeMD NewsIndustry News • 4 min read • Jul 14, 2020 12:00:00 AM • Written by: Dr. Nicholas Lorenzo

Since the beginning of the pandemic, MeMD has worked to innovate solutions and provide employers with the support they need during a critical time – including non-invasive COVID-19 testing that can be completed quickly and easily from home.

With no end in sight to the COVID-19 crisis, employers nationwide are working to strike a balance between reopening their businesses and keeping employees and customers safe. It’s a hefty burden with few hard and fast guidelines to direct business owners’ efforts.

Such testing has become a critical component of return-to-work strategies, yet many of the current processes are wrought with limitations or challenges. MeMD’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nicholas Lorenzo, answers common questions about how this testing works, why it’s critical for ensuring a safe workplace environment, and how employers can leverage this and other tools to determine workplace readiness.

What is a COVID-19 PCR test?

PCR, which is short for polymerase chain reaction, detects the presence of the COVID-19 virus. The test determines whether or not an individual is currently infected and can potentially spread the virus to others. 

How is a PCR test collected?

The sample is collected through nasopharyngeal swab, nasal swab, throat swab or a saliva/sputum sample. MeMD’s testing solution utilizes a saliva sample. The test is sent directly to the patient’s home, and the patient mails the sample back to the lab.

How is a PCR test different than a COVID-19 antibody test?

A PCR test is used to diagnose COVID-19. It will determine if an employee currently has the virus.

An antibody test does not diagnose patients who actively have symptoms. Instead, it determines whether or not a person was infected with COVID-19 at least two weeks prior to the test. The presence of antibodies indicates probable partial immunity to a future COVID-19 infection for a period of months.

MeMD also offers antibody tests for businesses.

Why would I want to get a PCR test? 

For employees experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (like fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough or shortness of breath), the PCR test provides a convenient, non-invasive and remote option for test sample collection. Confirming whether or not they are positive for COVID-19 will also help curb the spread of illness in the workplace and in other public settings.

Why would an employer give staff members access to a PCR or antibody test?

With COVID-19 cases spiking nationwide, PCR testing ensures that employees do not have the virus before returning to the workplace for their essential jobs. This is critically important for curbing the spread of coronavirus and safeguarding other staff members, customers or visitors.

As for antibody testing, this kind of test helps employers understand the vulnerability of their workforce to future COVID-19 infections. If very few employees have COVID-19 antibodies, the company may be highly vulnerable (and vice versa).

PCR and antibody testing through MeMD’s return-to-work program gives business owners and their employees more confidence and comfort in returning to (and staying at) work. We’re giving businesses more safety control, peace of mind and the ability to respond to a potential COVID-19 outbreak quickly.”

What if the PCR test is positive?

Employees who are symptomatic and take the PCR test should self-quarantine while awaiting the result.

If the test comes back positive, the employee should remain in quarantine and should be monitored remotely via telehealth. MeMD’s return to work program, which includes testing and virtual visits, adheres to all CDC criteria, including advising employees and business owners on when it is safe to return to work.

What if it’s negative?

Employees should quarantine at home until the test results are ready. If the test is negative and the employee still feels ill, they can be diagnosed with another condition, such as sinusitis or bronchitis, and treated virtually until they’re healthy enough to return to work.

What are the advantages of a home sample collection PCR test kit?

An employee who’s experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms can utilize the home sample collection kit while self-quarantining. In addition to eliminating exposure to coworkers, the employee does not have to travel to a testing center, local health department or other brick-and-mortar healthcare facility in order to take the test.

The at-home test involves collecting a saliva/sputum sample. This method is simple and painless, unlike the uncomfortable nasopharyngeal swab technique utilized by many testing centers, which involves a swab pushed way up into the nose to the back of the throat.

The saliva/sputum sample is shipped overnight to the PCR lab in prepackaging provided in the home collection kit. MeMD’s PCR test results are available within 2-3 days after arrival at the lab, accessible through the patient’s virtual visit dashboard.

How do employees order PCR testing?

To get an order for a PCR test, businesses can direct employees to request a visit online, 24/7. They will be connected with a healthcare provider who will assess their symptoms, recommend a treatment plan, and order a PCR test if medically indicated.

The same is true of antibody tests. Employees request a virtual visit with a provider who will assess them and recommend an antibody test if appropriate.

For both PCR and antibody testing, the provider will instruct the patient on how the test will be administered through MeMD’s lab partners, when to expect the results and what their results mean.

Providers also can order and supervise blanket PCR or antibody testing of employee groups to help companies get a clear picture of their return-to-work readiness.

PCR and antibody testing are two important parts of MeMD’s complete return-to-work program. The program includes CDC-guided symptom screeners and short-term contracts to give employers the tools and flexibility they need to effectively manage the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Businesses can email to request more information. 

Reach the World. Giving Made Easy with Impact.

Dr. Nicholas Lorenzo