One of the main trends that has emerged recently in the diagnostics industry is a shift for simple testing—from a doctor’s office or lab to the home. While in-home testing existed before the COVID-19 pandemic (think pregnancy, allergy, and DNA tests), people have become much more comfortable checking their health status from a box, while conveniently sitting in their own home. No longer are people afraid of performing a finger prick, or nasal or saliva swab. Our desire to know “for sure” brought home-use test kits to the forefront of family life everywhere. Soon, we realized the convenience of at-your-fingertips, self-administered tests, and most importantly, the valuable health information they delivered.
As consumers have become more confident in self-testing, industry innovators have responded. There’s a new generation of in-home kits in the pipeline and on the store shelves. It makes sense: the demand is growing and how we experience healthcare is becoming more self-driven. At-home diagnostic kits teamed with telehealth doctor visits could reinvent house calls—with the potential to significantly cut costs. Plus, projected at-home diagnostics growth is 5.3%, USD 6.5 billion+ by 2028, promising to help jobs and economics stay healthy, too.
Yet, every opportunity comes with challenges. A decidedly negative “Covid Effect” has been the staggering increase in medical waste volume. The World Health Organization reports tens of thousands of tons of Covid-related waste, including 140 million COVID-19 test kits producing 2,600 tons of plastics waste (not counting at-home-generated waste!). This is where the packaging community can start getting creative.
At this point, most at-home test kits, (including those for COVID-19) use a lot of packaging. And that takes us back to the place we stood before all hell broke loose: an industry seeking ways to design packaging with less, a community striving for sustainable solutions that still ensured sterility, efficacy, patient safety, and convenience.
As vaccines and protective measures take hold, can we pick up where we left off, exploring the balance of making test kits easy to use at home, while streamlining the package to be more sustainable or environmentally friendly?
As we gratefully reach a point where environmental stewardship is once again on the table, it’s clear we have made progress, although there is still more to be done.