A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Digital, Self-testing Strategy for COVID-19 Infection in South Africa.

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McGill University

Status and phase

Phase 2
Phase 1




Device: Abbott Panbio rapid antigen self-tests
Other: COVIDSmart CARE! app

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


As the world opens up to rapidly increasing vaccination coverage and newer variants, there is an even greater need for timely access to at-home COVID-19 testing, or self-testing based out of kiosks, offices, or private spaces. Data on digital strategies that complement self-testing are sparse. Using a superiority randomized controlled trial design (open-label, single-blinded), the investigators will aim to evaluate the impact of a digital self-testing strategy offered out of kiosks/private spaces on the turnaround time to test results, the proportion of participants initiated on action plans, and new infection detected with the strategy. The investigators will compare these outcomes to a conventional lab-based strategy. Significance: A digital, portable, self-testing strategy will facilitate rapid self-knowledge of COVID-19 status and rapid classification into clinical/quarantine/prevention plans. The study will document the impact of a digitally connected self-testing strategy for COVID-19 infection. Upon completion of the strategy, the digital program will be available for global dissemination.

Full description

The investigators hypothesize that a rapid digital self-testing strategy that evaluates the risk of severe COVID-19 infection and guides participants on the methods of self-test interpretation and ensuing action plans will be more impactful in detecting COVID-19 infection and will facilitate more participants to take an appropriate course of action compared to the conventional strategy. Action plans initiated will be either: a) clinical care, b) prevention (home quarantine, isolation), or c) social distancing. Taken together, these actions will impact health outcomes during the current and ensuing SARS-CoV-2 surges. Using a superiority randomized controlled trial (RCT) design, the investigators will randomize participants to either the App-based self-testing arm or the conventional testing arm (screening and testing performed by a health care worker (HCW) at the COVID-19 testing site). A confirmatory RT-PCR test will be performed in both arms. The standard of care will be offered in the conventional arm. The interventional strategy will be offered in kiosks/private spaces within COVID-19 testing sites or student health clinics. The COVIDSmart CARE! digital App-based program will be downloaded onto the test kiosk based tablets or participants' smartphones. This strategy will yield self-test results and guided action plans in a rapid turnaround time.


600 estimated patients




18+ years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • Aged 18 years and above
  • All sexes and genders
  • Suspecting COVID-19 exposure
  • Symptomatic or asymptomatic for COVID-19
  • Mental capacity to provide informed consent
  • Access to internet connectivity and digitally literate
  • Access to a smart device that can download and run the COVIDSmart CARE! App (e.g., Android tablet version 6 or higher).

Exclusion criteria

  • Participants with serious mental health or clinical condition which limits their capacity to provide informed consent.
  • Those with apparent severe COVID-19 symptoms requiring urgent hospitalization (e.g., severe shortness of breath, impaired level of consciousness, etc.).

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


Single Blind

600 participants in 2 patient groups

Interventional Arm
Experimental group
In the interventional arm, we will offer a self-administered supervised COVID-19 testing strategy with an investigational device - Abbott's Panbio COVID-19 Antigen Self-test. The self-test process will be facilitated by the COVIDSmart CARE! digital App and platform. Suspected COVID-19 patients will be triaged into one of three action plans: a) clinical care pathways, b) prevention (home quarantine, isolation) pathways, or c) social distancing.
Other: COVIDSmart CARE! app
Device: Abbott Panbio rapid antigen self-tests
Conventional Arm
No Intervention group
Participants presenting to test for SARS-CoV-2 will be staged on their self-reported severity of symptoms (mild, moderate, severe) and tested with rapid antigen tests, followed by RT-PCR testing. Suspected COVID-19 patients will be triaged into one of three action plans: a) clinical care pathways, b) prevention (home quarantine, isolation) pathways, or c) social distancing. Conventional arm is the standard of care arm.

Trial contacts and locations



Central trial contact

Keertan Dheda, MBBCh, PhD; Ali Esmail, MD

Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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