When getting tested for COVID-19, it’s common to have questions about the types of tests, how they work, and their accuracy. In this article, we cover the different types of COVID testing, including the tests provided by Physicians Immediate Care to support your health.
To find out if you should get tested for COVID-19, visit our COVID testing information page.
If you require a test to find out if you currently have COVID-19, there are two types of tests available: antigen testing and PCR testing. To find out if you had a COVID-19 infection in the past, an antibody test can be administered.
Testing for Current COVID-19 Infections
Molecular PCR Testing for COVID-19
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing works by detecting the genetic material of the coronavirus. In PCR testing, a sample is taken from the nose with a swab. A technician or medical professional then uses a scientific device to replicate the genetic material until there are millions of copies. Even if there is only a very small amount of the virus present in the sample, copying the genetic material allows it to become detectable. The machine then checks if the replicated genetic material matches the known genetic sequence of COVID-19.
Because the test amplifies the amount of viral genetic material present, PCR testing has a higher level of accuracy and sensitivity, even when patients are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic. It has less than a 5% false-negative rate, and less than a 0.5% false-positive rate.
Rapid Molecular PCR Testing
While PCR tests for COVID-19 once could only be done in labs, they can now be carried out quickly on-site, producing results in a matter of minutes. Where these rapid COVID testing units are available, they are a great option for getting fast and reliable results.
Here at Physicians Immediate Care, we use the Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 Rapid Molecular PCR test (This is a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test – NAAT) with results in under 15 minutes. We prefer this test due to its high accuracy (less than a 0.5% chance that a negative result is inaccurate) and speed of results. Results are available in less than 15 minutes, making it the fastest rapid point of care molecular COVID-19 test. Fast, accurate results help us follow up immediately and provide the best possible care for our patients.
COVID-19 Antigen Testing
Antigen tests work by testing a nasal or throat swab for the presence of unique proteins, called antigens, that make up part of the virus that causes COVID-19. These tests are fast and inexpensive. This has made them a popular first response to test people showing symptoms of COVID-19.
But Antigen tests come with a few negative aspects. Since antigen tests are most effective when the patient is showing symptoms of the virus, at the beginning or end stages of an infection, there may not be enough antigens present for the test to detect. This results in about 5% of people receiving false-negative results, meaning the test says they don’t have COVID-19 when they really do. If you get a negative result from an antigen test, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that you check the accuracy of the results by getting a PCR test. This type of test is more sensitive and can detect smaller amounts of the virus.
There is also a small chance of receiving a false-positive result, where the test says you have COVID-19 when, in fact, you do not. However, this is only a 3-4% chance. If you receive a positive test, it is important to follow healthcare instructions and self-isolate for the recommended period of time to avoid spreading the virus to others.
Testing for Past COVID-19 Infections
An antibody test determines if you had a COVID-19 infection in the past. It does this by testing a blood sample for antibodies made by the immune system to help fight off COVID-19. Unlike antigen and PCR tests, antibody tests do not tell you if you currently have COVID-19.
At this time, there is evidence that antibody tests may underperform when it comes to accuracy. For this reason, Physicians Immediate Care does not currently offer COVID-19 antibody testing. We are working with several antibody testing companies to find a test that meets our standards for accuracy and practicality in the immediate care environment.
If you receive an antibody test that indicates you had a past infection, it is important to continue taking precautions against contracting and spreading the virus. Scientists do not know how much protection antibodies provide against getting re-infected with COVID-19.
How Can I Find Same-Day COVID Testing Near Me?
Physicians Immediate Care doesn’t just provide same-day results from COVID testing. Our testing method provides results in under 15 minutes. If you’re wondering where to get a COVID rapid test, the answer is simple. Physicians Immediate Care offers rapid PCR COVID testing at over 50 locations in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Just learn what to expect and make an appointment at a clinic near you today.
No other urgent care has invested in patient and staff safety like Physicians Immediate Care. To protect against the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses in our clinics, have implemented advanced clinic enhancements. These upgrades include state-of-the-art ventilation and air purification systems and UVC lights, which kill harmful microorganisms and assist with the deep cleaning of exam rooms.
As a full-service urgent care clinic, we do much more than regular COVID testing sites. We provide a full medical exam and consultation for each of our patients. For patients that test positive, we provide symptomatic treatments, and the advice you need to monitor your condition, know what you should do, and how to protect others from COVID-19. For negative tests, we work to diagnose and treat the cause of any symptoms you may have. Whether your COVID test is positive or negative, we provide the tools for you to start feeling better.