COVID TESTING: Understanding the Difference

With the multitude of tests available, COVID testing can be very confusing. Often individuals are unsure of which test they need. A broad review of testing can help those who are getting bogged down with too many facts and not enough guidance.

TYPES OF COVID TESTS: Diagnostic vs. Antibody

DIAGNOSTIC: Nasal Swab Testing

  • NAAT/PCR TEST: NAAT (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test) is a technique in which a very small amount of virus can be detected and amplified to produce accurate results. rt-PCR is a type of NAAT and very accurate for detecting COVID. The test can be performed on site, but must be sent to the laboratory. Turn around time varies from 24 hours to 7 days.  When demand is high, turnaround times will be longer.
  • ANTIGEN TEST: Also known as the “rapid-results test”, antigen testing is done on site and the results are available within the hour.  This technology is the same as that of a home pregnancy test. The advantage of antigen testing is that results are within minutes.  The disadvantage is that false negative results occur more often with the antigen test than with NAAT/PCR test.

ANTIBODY: Blood test

  • SEROLOGY/ANTIBODY TESTS: Antibody testing examines how well the immune system is working and whether or not a person has formed antibodies (IgM, IgG) and immunity against the virus. This type of testing can not be used to diagnose a current infection. This test is by blood and not done on site. The patient is sent to Quest laboratory to have their blood drawn and processed.


Persons getting tested for a specific purpose such as travel need to ensure which test is adequate for their destination. For example, travel to Hawaii will accept only the PCR test and only from designated locations.  Our facility is not a designated facility for travel to Hawaii. Most other travel destinations will accept the antigen test, but it is the responsibility  of the individual traveling to confirm this.


Most insurances will cover the nasal PCR  and blood antibody test, but the patient should confirm with their health plan before scheduling a visit.  The antigen test is not covered  by insurance and is $99, which includes both the visit and laboratory processing.