Home health agencies will soon receive federally distributed COVID-19 tests and guidance on how to use them, a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) spokesperson told Home Health Care News.
On Monday, the White House announced plans to ship 150 million tests across the country in the coming weeks, 10 million of which will be sent to home health and hospice providers.
The news comes after a call HHS had with members of the media last week. On it, HHS assistant health secretary Adm. Brett Giroir spoke about the department’s efforts to send out point-of-care COVID-19 tests from Abbott to nursing homes and the efficacy of those efforts thus far.
After the call, a HHS spokesperson told HHCN that some tests would be sent out to home health agencies this week and that further details will be ironed out as early as Tuesday.
“BinaxNOW tests to home health agencies are being finalized as we speak,” the spokesperson said in an email.
Giroir went without mentioning home health agencies on the call, but previously said that home health staff would also be beneficiaries of the agency’s broader testing initiatives.
“The administration will begin distributing BinaxNow tests in collaboration with Abbott in mid-September,” Giroir said on a call in early September. “Distribution will occur to support the protection of the vulnerable in assisted living, senior centers and home health staff, which currently do not receive the benefits of our nursing home program.”
When word first broke that home health agencies would get access to federally-provided COVID-19 tests, stakeholders were pleasantly surprised. But some industry advocates questioned how much of an impact it could really make.
“While 100 million to 150 million tests sounds like a lot, when you distribute them to [assisted-living facilities], schools and [home health agencies], it diminishes quickly,” National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) President William A. Dombi said on a recent webinar hosted by Littler Mendelson.
Dombi also expressed concern about the accuracy of the point-of-care, rapid response tests being distributed.
“It’s a tool in the infection-control toolbox. It’s not a panacea,” he said. “Overall, there are limitations to that rapid test’s quality and accuracy.”
The rate of false positives from the tests sent to nursing homes is on par with expectations, however, according to Giroir.
“That is not shown at all. We know with every test, including molecular tests and PCR tests, that there are false positives,” Giroir said on Friday’s call.
He added that the amount of inaccurate results depends on the population, but still defended the tests’ overall effectiveness.