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- I tried a new single-use, at-home COVID-19 test that’s available on Amazon for $110.
- The test is easy to take and requires a saliva sample instead of a standard nasal swab.
- Although it’s expensive and not guaranteed to be covered by insurance, it’s still a convenient, safe, and reliable way to test for COVID-19 at home.
Studies show that widespread and accessible COVID-19 testing could help slow and eventually stop the pandemic. It’s been a struggle thus far to implement universal testing in the US due to prevailing shortages, and it’s a problem that persists from what public health officials have called a poor overall strategy.
But one of the easiest ways to address the current lack of testing is to make reliable and effective tests available for at-home use — something that’s thankfully starting to take shape. Among the at-home tests that are now available online is one sold on Amazon called DxTerity.
The at-home test from DxTerity is a little different than traditional nasal-swab tests in that it instead requires a saliva sample. Although it’s not as accurate as a nasal swab, its convenience can’t be understated: Being able to buy an at-home COVID-19 test on Amazon is a major step forward in bringing testing to more people.
To see just how useful the test is, and if it’s worth the effort, I decided to purchase one for myself. I wasn’t experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms at the time of the order or when I took the test, but it was still interesting to see exactly how the process worked and, ultimately, if it’s a worthy alternative to waiting in line at my local CityMD.
The DxTerity Collection Kit arrives just like anything else you order from Amazon, packaged in an Amazon-branded box and delivered to your door. Though the exact shipping time depends on availability, with my Amazon Prime account, I got free two-day shipping and it arrived on time.
The kit comes in a smaller box with three main parts: an information card with step-by-step instructions on how to use everything, a biohazard specimen bag, and a sample collector. A small piece of tape seals the front of the box and confirms nothing inside has been tampered with.
Even the sample collector comes in its own sealed packaging to ensure it’s not been contaminated or compromised, and the included information card says to not open this package until you’re ready to take the test. This kit also includes a funnel to make filling the vial with saliva a little easier, as well as a cap that seals the tube once full.
One aspect of the test that I found to be especially thoughtful is how convenient it is to re-package everything to send back to the lab. With a return label pre-attached to the outside of the box, there’s no need to buy your own postage or even print the return label yourself. For a kit that costs $110 out-of-pocket, this level of convenience should be expected but it’s still nice to see it included. There’s also a small adhesive strip on the inside of the box’s front flap that makes it easy to re-seal and secure the kit prior to sending it to the lab, too.
Before I took the test, I had to register the sample tube on DxTerity’s website. Doing so allows you to create an account that gives you access to your future results, and it guarantees that the test is set up for processing. Each tube comes with its own unique 14-digit identification code that’s located on the stem and setting up a DxTerity account only takes a few minutes.
After creating an account, it’s safe to begin the test and start collecting a sample. Although it is a bit awkward to spit into a tube over and over again, it’s a fairly straightforward process. The funnel does certainly help with this, but it takes a little patience to make sure the tube is sufficiently filled. There’s a clear wavy black line to mark the level the saliva needs to reach, and the packaging warns that bubbles don’t count. The test needs genuine, full-bodied saliva.
DxTerity also advises that you don’t eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum at least half an hour prior to taking the test (this includes water). The instructions offer a few tips on how to generate saliva, which was certainly helpful after my mouth felt far too dry for how much more I had to fill.
Once I finished filling the tube, it was easy to replace the funnel with the cap, which, in addition to sealing the tube, houses a stabilizing solution that mixes with the saliva. The tube just needs to be shaken for around five seconds to sufficiently mix the two. When that’s done, the next step is to slip the tube into the biohazard bag, seal it, and then place it back into the DxTerity box so it can be sent back to the lab.
This entire process takes roughly 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how quickly you’re able to fill the tube with saliva. At-home COVID-19 tests are designed for convenience and ease-of-use, and DxTerity‘s certainly pulls that off. The instructions are clear and easy to understand, the process is intuitive, and the online account even offers a level of personalization.
Although sending the kit back is incredibly easy thanks to the included return label and seal on the box, there are still a couple of hurdles that may make it difficult for some people. First, DxTerity strongly recommends registering the tube, taking the test, and sending the kit back all on the same day. For busy folks, this could cause a problem, especially when you factor in that it can’t be sent back on Saturday or Sunday (more on that in a second).
The second sticking point is it has to be sent via FedEx. If you’re not close to a FedEx or drop-off site, this test likely won’t be very convenient for you.
DxTerity also recommends sending the kit back on a weekday, and strictly says to not send it back on the weekend. FedEx pick-ups may be more limited on either Saturday or Sunday, and the delay could affect the test results’ speed and accuracy.
I took and sent back my test on a Thursday, and didn’t receive my results until the following Tuesday. It’s worth noting that DxTerity says to expect results to post to your account with 24 to 72 hours of the lab receiving the kit. The exact when the lab receives the kit is an important distinction, as this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get results within 24 to 72 hours of when you actually send it back.
The return label attached to the box is a FedEx priority overnight label, meaning DxTerity’s offering the best it can to quickly get the sample to the lab and tested. Though mine took around four days, it is still a convenient option for anyone who isn’t keen on venturing to an in-person testing site (and the four-day time frame is roughly similar to the timeline you can expect for in-person PCR tests).
The biggest drawback of the test is its cost. At $110, it’s not cheap and though there is an option to potentially be reimbursed by insurance, there are some caveats. First, you can’t bill insurance directly through DxTerity or Amazon, so you’ll need to spend the $110 up-front and out-of-pocket. Then, it’s not guaranteed whatever insurance you have will cover it. There are guidelines in the FAQ section of DxTerity’s website that outline what’s needed to make a claim, but that doesn’t change the fact you’ll be out $110 while you wait for the possibility of reimbursement.
The test is also available through participating HSA and FSA plans, though do heed the emphasis on “participating” as that means that not all plans are compatible. It’s also worth pointing out that the American Medical Association (AMA) set the reimbursement for $100, so even if your insurance does reimburse it, you’ll still be out a total of $10.
Since experts say testing should be done on a massive scale (and often), shelling out $110 each time just isn’t a reasonable option if you need or want frequent tests. As a one-off, sure, it certainly works but not as a long-term, consistent solution.
Another drawback to DxTerity’s test is its lack of accuracy on paper. According to this table from the FDA, Each COVID-19 test, home, clinic, or otherwise, is judged on its level of sensitivity, with a lower number being the most accurate. These numbers can be anywhere from 180 NDU/ml (the most sensitive) on up to 540,000 NDU/ml.
With an accuracy rating of 3,600 NDU/ml, DxTerity’s test just isn’t as accurate as some of the at-home nasal swab tests available like the LabCorp Pixel or the EmpowerDX. It is the second-most accurate at-home saliva test, but it’s still important to note that there are several other at-home tests available that offer a higher level of accuracy.
This decision largely comes down to personal preference. There’s no denying the test’s convenience: It’s delivered directly to your door, the test is easy to administer, and it’s a breeze to send back (so long as you have access to FedEx). But if you don’t have a FedEx drop-box nearby, get your mail delivered to a P.O. box in town, or just don’t have the budget to shell out $110 out-of-pocket, then DxTerity’s test doesn’t make a ton of sense.
If you aren’t hindered by those hurdles, then it does provide a safe and effective way to test yourself for COVID-19. Even though it may not be as accurate as other available at-home tests, its availability on Amazon and the inherent convenience that comes along with that make it a viable testing option.
Two of the most reliable at-home options right now are the tests from LabCorp Pixel and EmpowerDX. Both are nasal-swab tests that allow you to use insurance to entirely reimburse the up-front payments — and the results are available within 24 to 48 hours after the lab receives them. The EmpowerDX test is slightly ahead of the LabCorp Pixel because it doesn’t have the same strict eligibility requirements, meaning more people have access to it, plus it’s a cheaper up-front, out-of-pocket cost.
There’s no denying the importance of accessible COVID-19 testing and an at-home test like DxTerity‘s brings testing to a wider group of people. That it’s sold on Amazon, ships directly to your front door, and is easy to use and ship back to the lab makes it one of the most convenient options currently available.
However, its $110 out-of-pocket cost and reliance on FedEx shipping are clear drawbacks. When you also consider that it’s not as accurate as some of the at-home nasal swab tests currently available, its practicality does start to shrink.
The availability of more widespread testing is something the US sorely needs to decrease the spread of COVID-19, and although there are drawbacks to DxTerity’s kit, having it available on a platform like Amazon is a notable achievement.
Pros: Readily available via Amazon, easy to use, comes pre-packaged with a return shipping label already attached to the box
Cons: Requires an up-front, out-of-pocket payment of $110, not guaranteed to be reimbursable via insurance, not as accurate as other FDA-authorized at-home tests
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