COVID-19 Screening vs. Testing

Last modified: November 17, 2020
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Being screened for COVID-19 and being tested for COVID-19 are very different. One involves a series of questions (screening) and the other involves an actual lab test (testing). Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences:

What is COVID-19 Screening?

  • You are asked a series of questions about your age, general health, and symptoms.
  • You will answer questions about potential exposure and any travel you have done.
  • This information helps a health care provider determine if you should have further testing.
  • A health care provider may recommend that you get tested for COVID-19.
  • Screening is also done when you go in person to a hospital or other health care area to identify if you might be sick.

What is COVID-19 Testing?

  • You do not need a referral from a doctor or other provider to get tested.
  • You will go to a testing site.
  • You will be screened (asked a series of questions).
  • You will likely be tested for COVID-19 by nasopharyngeal swab (similar to a cotton swab being stuck into your nose).
  • A laboratory test will be performed to find out if you have COVID-19.
  • Your results will be delivered in around one to three days.

Should You Do a Screening, or Should You Go Get Tested?

Screening is appropriate if you aren’t sure if you should be tested. For example, if you have symptoms, but no exposure to a confirmed-positive person. Screening is also appropriate if you are not sure if your symptoms are COVID-19 symptoms. The UAMS HealthNow online screening tool routes you to receive testing if it is deemed that you need to be tested. You are also able to request a virtual visit at the end of your screening, but it is important to know that this is a paid visit (you will be charged) and it is not necessary to have a virtual visit in order to get a COVID-19 test.

Testing is appropriate if you have symptoms of COVID-19, if you have had an exposure to a positive person or if you have traveled outside of the state in the last four weeks. When you go to a UAMS Health testing site, you will still be screened before it is determined if you should have a test.

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Some of these documents have been developed based on current needs and experiences. UAMS is an entity of the state which may have different requirements under federal and state law than your hospital, doctors, and other providers. This information is provided as a public service in response to continuing questions from various community providers. All information is subject to change as our response to this pandemic challenge continues. Consult your practice or facility leadership before adopting any practices or protocols provided here.