Rapid testing gives local hospital patients COVID-19 results in minutes


CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) — A local hospital is using rapid COVID-19 testing to turnaround results for patients during their visit.

Rapid COVID-19 testing at Conway Medical Center can give patients results in approximately 15 minutes. Hospitals begin to see a demand for rapid antigen testing as more people return to school and work.

A quick swab of the nose and results are delivered in minutes.

“This is a nasal sample, not a nasopharyngeal swab, so, you don’t swab quite as deep as you do for the PCR test,” Dr. Paul Richardson, CMC Chief Medical Officer, said.

Dr. Richardson said the rapid test is identical to an influenza swab. The average time a patient receives COVID-19 PCR test results can range from 24 hours up to a week, on average, according to hospital data.

So how reliable is the 15-minute rapid test?

“For patients tested between that five-day window, results are proven to be fairly reliable,” Richardson said.

Overall, Dr. Richardson concludes the antigen test leads to more rapid results in comparison to a PCR test but may lose sensitivity when testing people with symptoms longer than five days.

Richardson says patients returning to work or school can benefit from the quick turn around time. Timely results also help make clinical decisions and place patients in the right level of care faster.

“If it’s going to take me a week to get a test back, that’s not going to help me a lot or you as a patient, as far as quarantine and everything,” Richardson said.

At MUSC, doctors are testing 3,000-4,000 samples a day. Some COVID-19 samples are run internally, while others run in external labs. On average, the hospital receives results in about 23 hours, according to Montez Seabrook, an MUSC spokesperson.

“We have limited rapid tests currently, due to national allocation of test kits for our current machine. We also have a lab-based machine that can turnaround a sample in 6 hours,” Seabrook said.

MUSC Health tells News13 the hospital will invest in two types of rapid machines in the next few weeks. A molecular (PCR) test will test symptomatic patients, and an antigen test intends to test asymptomatic patients.

At Grand Strand Medical Center, test results are coming back in approximately 24 hours.

“In August, we have been testing less than 50 people each week and we continue to see a downward trend,” Katie McClay, a Grand Strand Medical Center spokesperson, said.

Doctors recommend symptomatic patients should get a rapid antigen test if symptoms are onset fewer than five days. The longer a patient waits, the more sensitive a rapid test can be.

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