TINA study: How can the language of a virtual receptionist (chatbot) be optimised to increase access to cervical screening appointments?

TINA study: virtual receptionists to increase access to cervical screening.

Start date

01 December 2022

End date

30 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

Funding amount



Research themes

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