NIH test-to-treat program to provide free COVID-19 health services at home

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A National Institutes of Health (NIH) test-to-treat program will provide free COVID-19 health services, including at-home rapid tests, telehealth sessions, and at-home treatments, in selected communities across the U.S.

The program, first announced by the White House in September 2022, will make antiviral treatment available for eligible individuals who receive a positive test result, which could prevent severe illness, hospitalization, or death.

The program was announced and launched by the NIH on Thursday in collaboration with the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“At-home testing for COVID-19 is now widely available in the United States, as are antiviral treatments, and this program combines easy home access to both,” said Bruce Tromberg, PhD, director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at the NIH, said in a statement. “The Home Test to Treat program allows those who are sick an alternative to venturing out for testing or treatment, potentially reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the community,” said Tromberg, who is also leading the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Tech program.

Later this month, local and state officials in Berks County, PA, will be the first to pilot the home-based test-to-treat program. Up to 8,000 eligible residents are anticipated to participate in the program, the NIH said.

Program organizers will gather information from participants to identify best practices and make improvements to the test-to-treat model that can be used to implement the program on a larger scale.

Additional communities across the country will be selected to participate based on level of community need, access to healthcare treatment, expected COVID-19 infection rates, and socioeconomic factors, the NIH said.

Through collaborations with local health departments, the program aims to offer services to approximately 100,000 people in the U.S. in the coming year.

Telehealth services provider eMed will implement the program. Services are provided under a contract award by NIBIB contractor VentureWell. Having administered millions of verified at-home telehealth sessions during the pandemic, eMed will host a user-friendly Home Test to Treat website, where participants can sign up for the program, report symptoms, receive telehealth and antiviral treatment delivery, and coordinate telehealth-enabled test kits, the NIH said.

NIBIB also has issued a contract for an undisclosed amount to UMass Chan Medical School, whose researchers, in collaboration with eMed, will analyze data collected from each participating community. They will analyze the impacts of a home-based process for testing and treatment, individual attitudes about the Home Test to Treat program, and clinical outcomes from treatments.

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