Kroger Speeds Up COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Testing With AI Tech
Kroger Health, the health care division of The Kroger Co., has simplified the COVID-19 testing process to make it accessible by anyone with a smartphone. Its smartphone-enabled at-home Gauss COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test Kit is currently awaiting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
The affordable testing technology was developed by Gauss Surgical, a computer vision-focused health care company. Once authorized, it will be the first rapid COVID-19 test that can be fully performed using only a smartphone and a lateral flow assay (similar to an at-home pregnancy test), without involving a laboratory, a telemedicine visit or any specialized electronics. Last month, Gauss produced its first 1.5 million tests, which will be available for immediate distribution when the test receives EUA from FDA, and the company has the capability to produce up to 30 million tests per month.
"Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kroger Heath has remained committed to helping people live healthier lives by offering a variety of COVID-19 testing solutions supported by our multidisciplinary team of licensed, trained and experienced health care providers," said Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health. "We're proud to partner with Gauss to expand our COVIDCare+ suite with the forthcoming launch of this affordable, innovative solution."
To use the test, patients follow simple step-by-step video instructions in an app to properly collect the nasal swab and complete the rapid antigen test. After 15 minutes, the app prompts the patient to scan the rapid test. The app uses patent-pending, artificial-intelligence-based technology to provide patients with their results in seconds, helping minimize reader variability. The app also shares the secure and HIPAA-compliant results with appropriate public health agencies.
Kroger Health expects the at-home rapid antigen test will be available to purchase on the grocer's website and over the counter at its 2,200 pharmacies nationwide.
"Public health leaders agree that people need access to on-demand, reliable, rapid testing in their own homes, and that's exactly what our test delivers," said Siddarth Satish, founder and CEO of Menlo Park, California-based Gauss, which developed the test in partnership with Cellex Inc., a Research Triangle Park, North Carolina-based biotechnology company specializing in rapid diagnostics. "As a trusted resource for COVID-19-related solutions with a broad national footprint, Kroger Health is an ideal partner to dramatically expand access for millions of Americans through our smartphone-powered at-home COVID-19 rapid antigen test."
According to results of a clinical trial submitted to FDA, the testing solution showed a 93% positive percent agreement and 99% negative percent agreement compared with high-sensitivity emergency-use-authorized PCR tests.
Kroger has consistently been at the forefront of providing convenient public health solutions to help combat COVID-19.
In Aug. 2020, the grocery retail giant partnered with CLIA-certified laboratory Gravity Diagnostics, based in Covington, Kentucky, to create an at-home COVID-19 test capable of returning results in 24-48 hours. The testing program was part of COVIDCare Plus, a complete employer-focused health-and-wellness solution designed to help American companies restart and maintain their business operations. The testing program is centered on Kroger Health’s FDA-authorized COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit, which combines self-administered testing with virtual supervision by a licensed health care provider.
Further, last October, the retailer launched its rapid antibody testing to inform patients whether they have previously been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The FDA-authorized rapid antibody tests — conducted using a finger-prick blood sample — are supplied by Federal Way, Washington-based Whitmire Medical, are available to Kroger customers for $25 and typically provide results within 15 minutes. Individuals who believe they may have previously been infected with COVID-19 and are not currently experiencing symptoms are eligible for the test.
Additionally, as of Feb. 5, Kroger reported that it has administered more than 200,000 COVID-19 vaccines to essential health care workers, skilled-nursing facility employees and residents, and some elderly populations. The grocer also said that it would provide a $100 bonus for employees who get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 9 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.