Combined Symptom Screening and At-Home Tests for COVID-19

Qual Manag Health Care. 2023 Jan-Mar;32(Suppl 1):S11-S20. doi: 10.1097/QMH.0000000000000404.


Background and objective: At-home rapid antigen tests provide a convenient and expedited resource to learn about severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection status. However, low sensitivity of at-home antigen tests presents a challenge. This study examines the accuracy of at-home tests, when combined with computer-facilitated symptom screening.

Methods: The study used primary data sources with data collected during 2 phases at different periods (phase 1 and phase 2): one during the period in which the alpha variant of SARS-CoV-2 was predominant in the United States and another during the surge of the delta variant. Four hundred sixty-one study participants were included in the analyses from phase 1 and 374 subjects from phase 2. Phase 1 data were used to develop a computerized symptom screening tool, using ordinary logistic regression with interaction terms, which predicted coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results. Phase 2 data were used to validate the accuracy of predicting COVID-19 diagnosis with (1) computerized symptom screening; (2) at-home rapid antigen testing; (3) the combination of both screening methods; and (4) the combination of symptom screening and vaccination status. The McFadden pseudo-R2 was used as a measure of percentage of variation in RT-PCR test results explained by the various screening methods.

Results: The McFadden pseudo-R2 for the first at-home test, the second at-home test, and computerized symptom screening was 0.274, 0.140, and 0.158, respectively. Scores between 0.2 and 0.4 indicated moderate levels of accuracy. The first at-home test had low sensitivity (0.587) and high specificity (0.989). Adding a second at-home test did not improve the sensitivity of the first test. Computerized symptom screening improved the accuracy of the first at-home test (added 0.131 points to sensitivity and 6.9% to pseudo-R2 of the first at-home test). Computerized symptom screening and vaccination status was the most accurate method to screen patients for COVID-19 or an active infection with SARS-CoV-2 in the community (pseudo-R2 = 0.476).

Conclusion: Computerized symptom screening could either improve, or in some situations, replace at-home antigen tests for those individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sensitivity and Specificity

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants