New 'ATM' can validate self-swabbed ART for Covid-19

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A local startup here has come up with an ATM machine - not for withdrawing cash but to supervise and validify one’s self-administered antigen rapid test for detecting Covid-19. The machine is set to be deployed for pre-event testing in the future.

SINGAPORE - A local start-up here has come up with an "ATM" - not for withdrawing cash - but to supervise and validate one's self-administered antigen rapid test (ART) for detecting Covid-19.

The machine, developed by medical supply company Digital Life Line, is set to be trialled with two private healthcare providers here - Raffles Medical Group and Fullerton Health - for its scalability, The Straits Times has learnt.

A spokesman for Raffles Medical Group said it is still exploring the feasibility of the project.

Similarly, a spokesman for Fullerton Health Group told ST that it is assessing the viability and deployment of the machine.

One of the machines has already been placed at Fullerton Health's testing centre at Raffles City.

To use the machine, users must first collect a test kit from their healthcare provider and then self-register by scanning their NRIC or passport at the kiosk. They must then scan the unique QR code on their kit for tagging.

Once registered, they can perform their test in front of the machine, by following the steps illustrated on the screen.

The machine's video camera will also record the entire testing process for auditing purposes if needed.

Digital Life Line's managing director and chief executive Eddie Chng told ST that the machine is also suited to supervise those taking a saliva ART, including the Pasport test, which was developed by Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore General Hospital and other institutions here.

The Pasport test is said to have a sensitivity rate of 97 per cent - in comparison to the 99.5 per cent of a standard polymerase chain reaction test - as the test has an added amplification step that improves its ability to detect the coronavirus from a saliva sample.

The test kit was licensed to Digital Life Line in December for commercialisation, and the company will be seeking approval with the Health Sciences Authority for use here.

"Even when the Covid-19 pandemic is over, the machine can still be used for other types of rapid tests, such as for influenza," said Mr Chng.

The machine's video camera will also record the entire testing process for auditing purposes if needed. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Once the test is complete, the machine will take a photo of the ART cassette and the results will be sent automatically to the individual and the healthcare provider within 15 to 20 minutes.

"The machine is also equipped with a biohazardous waste basket, and ultraviolet light for disinfection," he added.

Each machine can handle about 10 to 15 tests an hour and can be fully operational for 24 hours.

To use the machine, users must scan the QR code on their kit for tagging. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

"The automation will also help our healthcare partners overcome their shortage of manpower and help cope with the increasing ART volume in view of the fast-spreading Omicron variant," said Mr Chng.

Having each test kit tagged to one's IC or passport also ensures that the results of the test cannot be tampered with, thereby ensuring its validity, he noted.

He foresees the machine will be rolled out for pre-event testing at Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) events, as well as deployed in schools and at the airport, potentially for pre-departure testing.

"For mass deployment, we will allow users to use their Singpass data to register for their tests, so that we don't have to do so manually," said Mr Chng.

Mr Chng foresees the machine will be rolled out for pre-event testing at Mice events, as well as deployed in schools and at the airport, potentially for pre-departure testing. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Last month, the Ministry of Health told ST that it is conducting a pilot programme to assess the feasibility of real-time virtually supervised self-swab ARTs.

This means those who need to take a supervised Covid-19 ART can do so over video consultation with a private healthcare provider, with the results sent to users via SMS and e-mail in around four hours.

It added that the pilot is part of plans to expand the options for facilitating regular self-testing and to complement the existing network of physical test centres as Singapore transitions to living with Covid-19.

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