Intermountain Healthcare is moving away from the dreaded nasal swab COVID-19 test and transitioning to a saliva-based test at all of its sites in Utah.
Intermountain will collect samples from patients over the age of six. And facilities will still offer the nasal swab for children five years and younger and for people who can’t produce enough saliva.
Brandon Webb is an infectious disease physician for Intermountain. At a community update last week, he said other than the way the sample is collected, the test will stay the same.
"So the saliva collection is not a rapid process, it still requires the lab to extract the genetic material out of the saliva, look for the virus particles, and then identify them," Webb said. "And so even with the saliva collection, people should still expect at least two to three days before test results."
He said Intermountain didn’t switch to a more comfortable way of testing earlier because they didn’t know if the saliva test would have the same result quality as the nasal swab.
"The Intermountain laboratory folks were able to validate that it is just as accurate," he said. "But the thing to understand about the saliva method is that the only thing that's different there is that it's a more humane, gentler way of collecting the virus."
He said the nasal test has roughly a 5% false negative rate, and the saliva test has a similar rate of false negatives.
Intermountain advises patients to avoid eating or drinking anything at least 30 minutes before the test is administered.