This week, the National Institutes of Health launched a new website that allows people to anonymously report their at-home test results. While I’m skeptical about how much useful data will actually result from the site, it could be a helpful tool to gauge how willing Americans are to self-report test results.
The website, MakeMyTestCount.org, puts users through a series of basic questions about their at-home test experience: your test result, the test brand you used, when you tested, and whether you have COVID-19 symptoms. The site also asks for basic demographic information, including your age, ZIP code, race, and ethnicity. After you report your test result, the website provides additional context on interpreting that result, such as suggesting a repeat test in the next two days if you have symptoms.
These survey questions mimic the information that typically gets collected when someone receives a PCR test, and the resulting data could potentially be used to examine who is using at-home tests and what their results are. The NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (or RADx) initiative, a program to speed up development and use of COVID-19 testing technologies, designed the website.
Of course, there are a lot of potential issues here. This website was launched more than two years after the first COVID-19 rapid tests were authorized and almost one year after they gained widespread popularity during the first Omicron surge. No matter how many people report their results now, the NIH will miss a lot of data and a lot of opportunities to advertise the site.
And how many people will report their results now? Pandemic safety measures like at-home testing are less popular than they were a year ago, and the launch of this website doesn’t seem to be paired with a public outreach campaign about using and reporting at-home tests. Basically, the results shared with the NIH are likely to be biased towards people who still care about taking precautions (and those who pay attention to federal COVID-19 resources). It’s also very easy to submit false results, as the website doesn’t ask for a photo of your test or anything similar.
Still, I’m excited to see this website launched—collecting some at-home test results is better than no test results! I hope lots of people use it, and I look forward to seeing any data the NIH eventually releases from the tool.