A recent study, conducted by US-based health care firm UnitedHealth showed that a simple, patient-administered test is effective in identifying COVID-19 infections.

The study consisted of nearly 500 patients at OptumCare facilities in Washington state.

The less invasive test is said to reduce exposure for health care workers and improve overall testing efficiency across the country, said the company.

The current COVID-19 test regimen, which requires a trained health care worker to collect samples from deep inside the patient’s nasal cavity, includes the use of personal protective equipment. The test is said to cause unwanted strain on the health care system, and is uncomfortable for the patient.

Study lead Yuan-Po Tu said: “We know that broad, rapid and accurate testing is essential to addressing the COVID-19 crisis, yet the current clinician-administered process significantly limits testing capacity, puts frontline health care workers at risk of COVID-19 exposure, and is unpleasant for patients.

“Making simple, patient-administered testing widely available will substantially improve testing efficiency, while protecting health care workers and preserving urgently needed personal protective equipment, such as face masks, gowns and gloves.”

The US FDA updated its guidance based UnitedHealth’s research on COVID-19 test

The study found that tests using self-administered swab tests would detect COVID-19 in more than 90% of positive patients, matching the consistency with the clinician-administered test.

The patient-administered testing method is significantly less invasive, and allows patients to swab the front part of the nostril and mid-nose, said the company.

The company said that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated its guidance based on its research, and allowed patients to self-administer swab tests for COVID-19.

UnitedHealth Group chief scientific officer Ken Ehlert said: “The COVID-19 pandemic presents the health care system with extraordinary challenges that need to be addressed quickly. While working on the front lines of our clinical care facilities in Washington state, Dr. Tu saw an opportunity to improve COVID-19 testing and rallied the expertise and resources of UnitedHealth Group to complete the study in less than one week.

“This is one of many ways we’re working across UnitedHealth Group, Optum and UnitedHealthcare to combat COVID-19 by providing the best care for patients, supporting the health care workforce, and enabling the health care system with new insights and solutions.”