The launch of a federal telehealth model will provide any adult — including senior living and affordable senior housing residents — access to at-home COVID-19 rapid tests, telehealth sessions and antiviral treatments.
The Home Test to Treat program, details about which were shared last week by the National Institutes of Health, will be piloted this month in Berks County, PA, is a collaborative effort of the US Department of Health and Human Services and two of its agencies, the NIH and the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response.
The $7 million program was first announced by the White House in September. Bruce Tromberg, PhD, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and leader of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Tech program, said the program will allow infected individuals an alternative to venturing out for testing and treatment, potentially reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the community.
Up to 8,000 eligible residents are anticipated to participate in the pilot program in Pennsylvania, which is expected to identify best practices to create a model that can be rolled out on a national scale.
Additional communities will be selected for participation in the program based on community need, access to healthcare treatments, expected COVD-19 infection rates and socioeconomic factors. The federal government aims to provide services to 100,000 people by the end of the year.
Telehealth services provider eMed will implement the Home Test to Treat program through a website where participants can sign up, report symptoms, receive telehealth and antiviral treatment delivery, and coordinate telehealth-enabled test kits.
University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School researchers will analyze data from each participating community, including the effects of a home-based process for testing and treatment, participant attitudes and clinical outcomes. Apurv Soni, MD, PhD, a UMass Chan assistant professor, said that challenges of access inequity persist and deepened during the pandemic.
“Demonstrating the feasibility of a home test and treat program, and scaling it across diverse communities, is critically important in determining how we can harness the power of digital medicine and healthcare innovation to provide resources to communities that need it most,” Soni said in a statement.
The program evolved from HHS’ COVID-19 Test to Treat initiative, launched in March 2022. Through that program, the federal government provided access to COVID-19 testing and treatments through federally funded long-term care facilities, community-based sites and health centers.