With the omicron variant spreading and driving record outbreaks of COVID-19, home antigen tests are becoming more popular. The tests provide results in under an hour, alleviating the need to wait in long lines at testing centers and risk further virus exposure.
But how user-friendly are these tests? ECRI, an independent nonprofit patient safety group, conducted a usability study in December 2021 on some of the most widely available at-home coronavirus tests. ECRI focused on usability and safety rather than performance, though it is important to note that all of these tests have emergency-use approval from the FDA.
ECRI ranked seven tests, giving each brand one of three ratings: "very good," "good," or "marginally acceptable." The results, in order of scores:
- Very Good: On/Go, CareStart, Flowflex
- Good: QuickVue, BinaxNOW/InteliSwab (tie)
- Marginally Acceptable: BD Veritor
While at-home tests are surging in popularity, their availability is spotty — meaning most buyers may not be able to choose an easier-to-use brand. Prices have also gone up. Walmart, Kroger, and Amazon agreed in September to sell two-packs of tests for $14 a box, but that agreement has expired and retailers have since raised their prices, with most charging $20-$30.
In an effort to keep up with the demand and ensure tests are available for everyone, President Joe Biden has promised to ship 500 million tests to Americans for free. However, details of the plan are still being ironed out.