TINA study: How can the language of a virtual receptionist (chatbot) be optimised to increase access to cervical screening appointments?
Start date01 December 2022
End date30 September 2023
GPs traditionally use letters/phone calls to invite patients to health screening appointments. Attending screening
regularly is important as it could lead to the early detection of more serious conditions. However, traditional
appointment invitations create high workload for surgery staff and sometimes do not lead to high levels of patient
engagement with screening.
People from ethnic minority groups sometimes experience problems in accessing and taking up health care
appointments in primary care, including cervical screening. Cervical screening is a health test that aims to identify
whether people with a cervix are at risk of cell changes, or conditions such as cancer.
This project aims to understand whether an automated virtual receptionist (VR) that uses Chatbots (computer
programs that simulate and process human conversation) would be useful for patients when booking cervical
screening appointments. It aims to understand whether patients like or dislike the VR and if it could improve patients’
decisions to book cervical screening. We want to know if the VR uses words and sentences which make sense to
patients and to learn what improvements are needed to make it work better for people from different ethnic groups. By
asking patients about the VR we will be better able to improve access to screening and reduce health inequalities.
We aim to interview up to 20 patients at one general practice in England, to gather a wide variety of views from white
and ethnic minority patients. We will interview patients who have already used VR and patients yet to try it, particularly
those who are hesitant or unsure whether they want to use it.
Data from the interviews will be analysed to find patterns in patients’ views and opinions. These will then be used to
make improvements to the VR to make it better for a range of patients, including patients from ethnic minority groups.
Aims and objectives
- To understand understanding of the language, cultural and technological barriers in taking up cervical screening offers
- To understand understanding of the specific needs of ethnic minority groups with respect to cervical screening invitations issued by a virtual receptionist (chatbot)
- To ways in which the virtual receptionist could be improved
- To raise the engagement rate with cervical screening
Dr Doris Dippold
Senior Lecturer in Intercultural Communication
I am Senior Lecturer in Intercultural Communication at the School of Literature and Languages. My career in higher education so far has taken me to three continents and five countries (Germany, USA, China, Luxembourg, UK), sparking a keen interest in language and communication in higher education contexts, especially:
- Internationalisation at home and the role of language in interactions between students and students and teachers
- Classroom interaction
- English as a medium of instruction in Anglophone and non-Anglophone contexts
- English as a lingua franca in higher education
In addition, I am also interested in issues of language and technology, in particular:
- conversation patters in interactions between humans and 'computer' interfaces, e.g. chatbots
- using linguistic analysis to develop AI-driven applications
Dr Freda Elizabeth Mold
Senior Lecturer in Integrated Care
I received my PhD from the University of Surrey in 2001 and worked as a post-doctoral researcher at King's College London for 9 years, initially in Public Health Sciences and then in the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery.
Since leaving Kings' I worked for NHS Evidence (previously part of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) conducting rapid online reviews.
I joined The University of Surrey again in 2010, working as a Research Fellow in the Department of Health Care Management and Policy. At this time I undertook a large scale systematic review investigating patients access to their electronic medical records and online services in primary care.
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to work on various mixed methods research projects, focusing on long-term conditions and access to services. Studies included the investigation of factors impacting on patients' access and uptake of after stroke services in London, the care of ethnic elders in care homes, and early interventions for frail older people.
Since moving to Health Sciences I have continued to follow my research interest in access to services for specific patient groups in relation to primary/ community care delivery.
Find out more about our research at Surrey: