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At-Home COVID Tests vs. In-Clinic Tests

With Philadelphia’s COVID positivity rate on the rise, many people are using at-home rapid COVID tests. They’re cheaper, easy to find at drug stores or online, and you can get results in a matter of minutes – all from the comfort of your own home. Want to take a COVID-19 test in your pajamas? You can.

But cheaper and easier isn’t always better, and at-home rapid COVID tests aren’t always the right solution. Keep reading to learn the differences between vybe COVID tests and self-COVID test kits, why in-clinic testing is more expensive than at-home testing, and why getting tested at vybe is often the best choice.

What are the different types of COVID tests?

All COVID tests are not the same. There are two types of tests authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to confirm COVID infection: molecular tests and antigen tests. Both tests can be performed with a nasal swab, throat swab, or saliva sample, although nasal swabs are most common. Both tests accurately reflect your chance of having COVID and transmitting it to others. Tests are most accurate when performed on day five of having symptoms. If you test earlier than this, it’s recommended to repeat the test on day five if you are symptomatic.

Molecular tests

Molecular tests – also known as nucleic acid amplification (or NAAT) tests – check for genetic material that only comes from the COVID virus. Using high-tech chemicals and equipment, these tests can reproduce millions (or billions) of copies of viral-related DNA from even the tiniest sample. NAAT tests are highly sensitive, leading to very few false negatives.

PCR tests

PCR (polymerase chain reaction) was the first NAAT test created to detect the COVID virus and is still the most widely used. Unlike COVID self-test kits, PCR tests can find evidence of the virus in the earliest stages of infection. Other types of NAAT tests include LAMP (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) and NEAR (nicking endonuclease amplification reaction).

Antigen tests

While molecular tests require specialized lab equipment, antigen tests are simpler and the results can be analyzed on the spot (usually within 10-15 minutes, compared to waiting a day or two for NAAT test results).

Antigen tests search for pieces of protein from the COVID virus. However, this process requires a higher level of the virus to be present – meaning that some antigen tests lead to false negatives, especially for people who don’t have symptoms.

What are your options for at-home tests?

At-home rapid COVID tests are essentially home versions of an antigen test. You collect your own sample (usually a nasal swab) and analyze the results on your own as well. View a list of FDA-approved at-home rapid COVID tests here, many of which cost less than $30 at your local drugstore.

A negative result from a self-COVID test kit means the virus was not found in your test sample and you may have a lower risk of transmitting it to others – however, there’s still a chance you might be infected and at-home COVID tests shouldn’t be used as the sole way to mitigate your risk.

What rapid tests are available at vybe centers?

For those who don’t want to gamble with at-home rapid COVID tests or questionable results, we offer convenient, walk-in rapid COVID testing at all vybe urgent care locations.

Come to vybe today for a higher-quality test administered by someone who knows how to properly take your nasal sample and can deliver the most accurate results.

Your vybe rapid COVID test options include:

  • Rapid NAAT tests for $150 (self-pay only)
  • Rapid antigen tests for $75 (self-pay only)

Lab-based PCR tests at vybe are typically covered by insurance, with no out-of-pocket costs to the patient. For those who are uninsured, the test is $135 plus lab fees (which are charged separately).

Why doesn’t insurance cover rapid COVID tests at vybe?

In the eyes of most insurance companies, it’s an issue of medical necessity vs. wellness screening.

Lab-based PCR tests at vybe can be covered by insurance because they typically include a physician evaluation. When someone has COVID symptoms and comes to us because they’re sick, our physician makes the decision if they should get a PCR test.

Rapid tests are usually not covered by insurance because they do not include a physician evaluation – especially if the person isn’t experiencing any symptoms and simply wants to know if they have the COVID virus.

Of course, with the ever-changing evolution of the COVID pandemic, many insurance providers are changing the way they cover testing as well. It’s always best to check your policy before making any decisions.

What situations are best for each COVID test?

Still confused if you should test at home or get a vybe COVID test? Sometimes, the decision is easy. For example, at-home rapid COVID tests typically aren’t accepted as proof of negative status for school, work, or travel, so you will need to visit a healthcare provider.

You have symptoms

If you’re experiencing COVID symptoms like a fever, cough, sore throat, or fatigue, you should use a more sensitive and highly accurate test – head to your nearest vybe for a lab-based PCR test. If you test at home and get a negative result but are still experiencing symptoms, visit vybe for a follow-up test.

You were exposed to someone with COVID

A rapid antigen test can be performed as soon as 3-4 days after exposure. If you use an at-home test in this same time range, remember that one negative result doesn’t rule out infection. You’ll need to perform a second at-home test in another few days.

You need to know if you can attend an event

Antigen tests are a quick, simple solution when you’re in very close proximity to an event. Come to vybe for a rapid antigen test or use an at-home test on the day of a family or work gathering to determine if it’s safe for you to attend.

Visit vybe for a COVID test today

Do-it-yourself projects are wonderful for your home, but not for your health. At vybe, we believe that everyone deserves great care – and that includes accurate test results when you need them most.

As new variants emerge and the Philadelphia COVID positivity rate increases, count on vybe to handle all your COVID testing needs. We offer rapid NAAT tests, antigen tests, and more. You can either walk in or schedule an appointment.

We also invite you to visit vybe’s COVID Information page or view these past blogs to learn more: