Streptococcus, also known as strep throat, causes a sore, red throat that is sometimes accompanied by swollen tonsils, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It is contagious and can cause serious complications if left untreated.
In the MIT study, parents were able to test their children for strep throat successfully. The researchers suggest that if more parents tested for it at home, it would eliminate doctor’s visits and gives doctors the chance to treat other illnesses while allowing patients to get treatment more quickly.
“The results supported our hypothesis, which is that parents can probably do this test at home, and with this added information, care could be delivered in a way that is more efficient for everyone,” said David V. Diamond, associate medical director of MIT Medical and one of the authors on the study, in a press release.
Lester Hartman, a medical home director at Westwood-Mansfield Pediatric Associates (Westwood, Mass.), began handing out home strep tests to his patients in 2008. Now, he distributes about 5,000 tests yearly to parents with children between the ages of 5 and 9, which is the age group most likely to develop strep throat.
The test requires the parents to swab their child’s throat. After that is finished, they have to put the swab into a tube that has chemical Provided test strips are dipped into the tube and will read out a positive or negative test result for strep throat in about 10 minutes.
Parents with children between the ages of 5 and 16 with sore throats were recruited for the study. 71 parents were able to successfully perform the test after watching a three-minute video. Of the participants, 57 claimed they were confident and 14 were somewhat confident about doing the test themselves. There were 54 negative and 17 positive test results. The negative results were sent to a lab to confirm the results and only one came back with a positive test for strep throat, meaning the test had a false negative rate of 1.9%.
If the parents performed these tests at home, parents could tell their healthcare providers who could then prescribe the necessary antibiotics to treat sore throats without needing to go to the doctor’s office.
Hartman’s practice has seen a decline in strep throat visits after continuously handing out the at-home strep throat tests since 2008.
“One of the reasons we started this is we need to focus more on the ever-rising population of kids with chronic diseases,” Hartman said.
The researchers hope that their findings will help support the idea of parents using this test for at-home diagnostics instead of going to the doctor.
“The ultimate goal for parents is to self-manage their kids in their home and not have to leave the home and go to a doctor unless the kid is really, really sick,” said Hartman.
The researchers also suggest that the tests would be more suitable for healthcare centers that do not need fee-for-service income. Because the kit only costs a few dollars, parents will be saving more money using an at-home test that they could be using on copayment for a doctor’s visit.
The research was published online in the Journal of Participatory Medicine.
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