Is that cough just a cold, or is it COVID-19? Does my child have strep or just a sore throat?
Many are asking these questions as this cold and flu season wallops locals.
With doctors' offices, clinics and ERs filling up, a B.C. company has launched an at-home solution.
Company officials say this is the first integrated testing product on the Canadian market that allows parents to test children for Strep A, Influenza A and B, and COVID-19.
Dr. Samuel Gutman, Rockdoc’s president and chief medical officer, said those illnesses are included in the kit for specific reasons.
"The reason that we selected those three is that — and it's amazing that people don't know this, but — there is very effective, very safe, very good treatment for influenza if you get diagnosed accurately in the first three days. And it's been around a long time. And, people don't know about it, and nobody can get to their doctor and get a flu test. So you can't be confirmed," he said, adding that six million Canadians don't have a family doctor.
"Even if you do, if you wake up this morning and say, 'I need to see the doctor,' it's at least a couple of days to get in," he said.
Strep was included because often, after waiting to see a doctor, a swab is done and sent to a lab. In the meantime, a patient may be prescribed antibiotics.
"That leads to a huge amount of over-prescribing," said Gutman, who was an ER doctor for 30 years.
He noted that it often takes three days for the results to come back for such tests.
The results from tests in the kit are available in 20 minutes.
The approximately $60 kit also comes with a same-day telehealth online doctor's appointment.
Physician appointments are covered by provincial health insurance.
While with some telehealth providers, waits for an appointment can also be long, these doctors will be available for an appointment the same day, Gutman asserted.
“We have our own physicians who are only doing this,” he said.
The kit can arrive within hours in the Lower Mainland via Door Dash.
Outside of Metro Vancouver, it arrives through overnight shipping via Canada Post.
How it works
The tests will be familiar to many who have tested for coronavirus during the pandemic. They include oral and nasal swabs.
According to a news release, parents can connect virtually with a healthcare practitioner to guide them through the test as part of the kit.
Patients can then choose to book the same-day follow-up appointment with a licensed doctor to discuss symptoms and results, and, if needed, get prescriptions like antibiotics faxed directly to their preferred pharmacy.
For those who have one, family doctors can be sent the results.
The company is owned and operated by Canadian doctors and nurses.
Two-tier health care?
Asked about this being two-tier health care that only those with the means can access, Gutman said he and all at the company support public health care. He still works within the public system.
"Our company is very supportive of the public system, but the public system isn't providing Canadians with what they need. And the system was never designed to be all things to all people. It was designed to be health insurance," he said.
He added that this type of testing is outside the public system.
"It is a screening test, so it does not violate the Canada Health Act," he said.
"Our goal is to provide Canadians with choice and customer service in health care because neither exist."
He also argues that this type of product can reduce stress on the strained public system by removing some folks who don't need to be at the ER or waiting at a clinic from the queue.
"Family docs are trying their best to keep up, but there aren't enough, and the demand is too much. This is... a way to provide information and choice to people. You can choose how you access it. And we're doing everything we can to make it as affordable as possible for people and to enable them to make appropriate decisions for their care and for their families."