Encinitas doctor helping patients test for coronavirus via telemedicine

Posted at 11:41 AM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 14:43:16-04

ENCINITAS, Calif. (KGTV) -- A major component of combating the spread of coronavirus is getting people tested, but that can be risky for healthcare workers and other patients. Now, an Encinitas doctor has begun a pilot program to make the process safer by having patients collect their own samples at home with guidance via telemedicine.

"Today, what we're going to do, I'm going to teach you how to collect a swab from your nose," said Dr. Joy Hardison on a video call with her teenage daughter who agreed to play a patient for a demonstration of the approach.

"You're almost there," said Dr. Hardison; guiding her daughter to insert a thin Q-tip type swab into her nose. "Keep going... Keep going."

"You're not breaking the skin," Dr. Hardison tells 10News. "It's a technique that doesn't require a lot of skill."

At the time of our interview, Dr. Hardison said she had already helped four real patients through the process and things went very well. With the proper guidance, the sample is worthy of being submitted for testing for multiple viruses, including coronavirus.

"The only thing about it is its slightly uncomfortable," said Hardison. "It actually can trigger people to sneeze because you're tickling the back of the nose. Which is another reason why we should be doing this at home as much as possible because when someone sneezes they aerosolize the virus and they're more likely to transmit it."

Dr. Hardison stresses each case has be assessed individually.

"If a patient needs hospital care. If they're in respiratory distress, then they can go to the hospital. But, as we know, the majority of these cases are actually mild and we want to prevent the spread and save the hospital resources for those that really need them."

In a world now saving lives by keeping a safe distance, this may be a lifesaving balance.

"This is a way we can practice social distancing and still get the job done," said Dr. Hardison.

The procedure takes about 10 minutes. And, like the real patients, Harbison's daughter has performed well.

"You did a good job," says her mother, "That's it."

Dr. Harbison says what's really needed now are more test collection kits. The swabs that need to be used are on back order. Though, for now, she still has several kits on hand.