New COVID-19 self-collect option

Wednesday, 08 April 2020
Self-collected samples validated, involving patients across NSW and QLDDHM has introduced the use of self-collected swabs for COVID-19 and respiratory virusesDHM’s self-collect swabs are now available for doctors to order via our Stores Department (D01499)

Self-collect swabs are now available which allow patients to perform specimen collection themselves in the comfort of their own home. The COVID-19 self-collection option contains easy-to follow patient instructions, together with the required swab for both throat and nasal specimen collection. An animated instructional ‘how-to’ video is available on our website to assist patients in completing the self-collect procedure. Once the patient has completed the collection, they simply return the specimen and request form to a dedicated DHM COVID-19 collection centre or drop-off location.

COVID-19 self-collection offer additional convenience and flexibility for doctors and patients alike, as well as being an important means of containing the transmissibility of the virus to others. It also conserves stock of personal protective equipment (PPE), which is a critical consideration in the current climate.

DHM has validated self-collected swabs against swabs taken by a pathology collector. Both methods provide the same results.

Self-collected swabs will be offered in addition to doctor collection of swabs taken within medical practices or at one of DHM’s dedicated COVID-19 only facilities.

Self-collect swabs now available to order

DHM’s COVID-19 self-collect swabs can be ordered from our Stores Department (Order code D01499). The COVID-19 self-collection option contains easy-to-follow patient instructions and the required swab, for both throat and nasal specimen collection.

Specimens must be returned to any of our dedicated DHM COVID-19 collection centres or pick-up/drop-off locations.

The COVID-19 global pandemic is now well-established and constantly evolving, as are the challenges it presents. Case definitions have changed, testing criteria have expanded and, most recently, there has been enforcement of restrictions on travel, self-isolation requirements and size of social gatherings. The focus has moved from containment to mitigation of community transmission.

DHM has now tested more than 30,000 COVID-19 specimens. Expanded testing criteria1 mean that doctors now have greater discretion in the ordering of COVID-19 testing (for which there is now a Medicare rebate) and, as a consequence, we anticipate an increase in the number of tests being ordered. Increased demand leads to a commensurate reduction in the availability of PPE and this represents a potential limitation on specimen collection and testing. Self-collected swabs for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes COVID-19) and respiratory viruses may provide the solution to this problem.

VValidation studyalidation of self-collected swab specimens

Every assay is validated for use with a limited range of specimen types and if it is intended that another type of specimen be used, that specimen must first be validated. DHM has completed a validation study, confirming that patient-collected throat and nasal swabs, when tested in the COVID-19 assay, give the same results as specimens collected by a DHM pathology collector. Ongoing comparison of healthcare worker (HCW) collection versus self-collection has supported our initial validation. A summary of the results is provided (see Table 1).

It is important to emphasise that self-collected specimens are only suitable for testing if there is validation data to support their use. DHM has confirmed the validity of testing self-collected throat and nasal swabs in their assay to diagnose COVID-19.

Key details

Expanded testing criteria

  • Doctors now have greater discretion in the ordering of COVID-19 testing
  • Medicare rebate now available
  • COVID-19 information and statistics available at NSW Health1

COVID-19 appointments & Hotline

  • Collection is available at a number of dedicated DHM COVID-19 only collection locations
  • Patients must have a pathology request form for COVID-19 testing
  • An appointment is required
  • COVID-19 Hotline 1800 026 622 (Mon–Fri 9am–5pm, Sat 9am–12pm)
  • For a full listing of locations, please refer to our website

Stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 information on
Self-collect: Instructions, FAQs and an animated ‘how-to’ video to assist patients with self-collection
Specimen collection: Criteria for testing and doctor collect instructions
Collection locations: A list of dedicated COVID-19 DHM collection centres
Pathology updates: Latest laboratory news
Coronavirus factsheet: Separating facts from fiction