Hep C Point-of-Care Testing
Last updated: November 2021
Technology is ever-evolving, providing increased options for enhanced convenience and care. One type of medical technology that has helped with identifying people with hep C is point-of-care tests.
These tests are less invasive than traditional blood tests and can give significant clues to the individual’s hep C history.
What exactly are point-of-care tests?
Point-of-care tests (POCT) are not just used to identify hep C. There are various types of POCT made by various manufacturers, used to identify a wide range of conditions such as HIV, and even high cholesterol levels.1 POCT are a type of laboratory test but they are not typically done in the laboratory.
These tests can be performed in a pharmacy, your doctor’s office, and in some cases, from the comfort of your home.1 A significant advantage of POCT is that they can provide results quite rapidly.
For example, hep C POCT can provide results in as quick as 20 minutes.2 For people with a fear of having their blood drawn, it provides the advantage in that it only requires a small blood sample from a prick of a finger.
The caveat of hep C point-of-care tests
Blood tests provide a confirmatory diagnosis of hep C. On the other hand, POCT are usually just screening tests, meaning that depending on the rest of the POCT, you may need a confirmatory blood test.2
For the hep C POCT, all they detect is whether you have antibodies to the virus - that is, whether the hep C virus has ever been in your body. However, if someone tests positive for antibodies, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they still have active hep C.
This is because 25% of people clear the hep C virus on their own<, but they will always have antibodies to the virus.2
How accurate are these tests?
Unlike blood tests, POCT are not 100% accurate. However, their accuracy is extremely high, with some ranging up to 99%.2
This means that a chance of a false negative (when the test shows that you do not have antibodies, but you actually do have them) is extremely low.
What does a negative test result mean?
A negative test means that you do not have hep C. However, if you have been recently exposed to hep C, this test will not pick that up for at least 6 months.3 Therefore, for people who feel like they were recently exposed to the virus, it is recommended to repeat the test in 6 months.3
What does a positive result mean?
If you recently did a hep C POCT and it came out positive, it means that the hep C antibody was found in your blood. This means that you were exposed to hep C at one point, but it is not able to specify if you have active hep C. You will need a blood test to confirm whether you have active hep C, and therefore eligible for treatment.
Where can I get a hep C point-of-care test?
Access to hep C POCT varies depending on your city and country. Hep C POCT should only be administered by a trained medical professional such as a pharmacist, nurse, or doctor.
Call your physician or pharmacist to ask if they perform this test. The fee tends to average $20 per test.
Have you received a hep C POCT? Share your experience in the comments.