We are Human

Thyia: Introducing at-home Cervical Screening

User Experience Research

Thyia  are revolutionising cervical screening with at-home cervical screening tests. Taking the embarrassment, inconvenience and discomfort away and giving individuals the control to test and track results from their own home using an app.

We are Human were approached by Thyia to delve into understanding individual’s cervical screening experiences and how their at-home kit and app compares.

Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by an infection with certain types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This is 99% preventable if checked regularly. With 1 in 3 women saying they have never taken up their offer of a cervical screening from the NHS,  Thyia recognised that something needs to change.

Globally, 8 in 10 women will have HPV in their lifetime, and it usually goes away without causing problems. However, people infected with ‘high risk’ HPV types for a long time are more likely to go on to develop cancer.

Everyone in the UK with a cervix, between the ages of 25 and 64, are invited by the NHS for cervical screening every 3-5 years. It is an intimate procedure, which can cause discomfort, distress and embarrassment, particularly for those attending for the first-time or for those that have had a previously negative experience.

Making HPV testing more accessible

Thyia want to empower everyone with a cervix to protect themselves from cervical cancer. Their mission is to eradicate the 99% of cervical cancers caused by HPV. Thyia offer a private and more convenient solution to eliminate the embarrassment and intimate nature of attending a cervical screening. 

The steps for the service are as follows:

Order Thyia online when smear test is due or there are concerns about HPV.

Receive a self-test to complete at home at a convenient time.

Return the test in the post, the accredited lab will test for high-risk HPV.

Results are provided via the app with supporting information. Results can also be sent to the GP.

If the result is positive for HPV, Thyia provides support and advice on next steps.

Designing an agile user experience research study

Our team planned, conducted, reported and presented the results over a 6-week period. We ran eight 60-minute, 1:1 research sessions with individuals aged between 21 – 62 at our research office in Bristol.

We are Human led the recruitment and invited a mix of both those who have and have not experienced cervical screenings to take part. 

Our team delved into the each individual’s cervical screening experiences. They captured their feelings, thoughts and actions about the entire journey, from receiving or awaiting their letter to receiving their results post-test.

A simulated-use formative usability evaluation was then conducted of the Thyia user interface (including packaging, device, instructions for use and prototype app). To replicate device use, an anatomical manikin was strategically positioned on a stool between participants’ legs. This arrangement allowed participants to follow instructions while mimicking the same posture they would adopt when using the device on themselves.

The final interview focussed on understanding how Thyia’s solution compared to their existing experience and perceptions and how it might impact their experience, perceptions and behaviours in future.

Insights into Cervical Screening experience

We listened to the positive and negative experiences of those who have attended a cervical screening, and the thoughts and feelings about those awaiting their first appointment.

Participants shared honest accounts of their personal experiences. Some were not easy to discuss, emphasising the importance of researcher’s ability to build rapport and trust with participants, to encourage them to feel comfortable sharing their stories.

“I was having a horrible time; there were three nurses in there, one was holding my knees open, just very traumatic, very painful”

“They open your knees and crank you open, it’s a horrible sensation”

“It’s never painful and I’ve never had bleeding, I have nothing to complain about”

The positive, neutral and negative experiences identified across the existing end-to-end cervical screening process were populated into a User Journey Map. Gaining insight into these personal experiences have been integral in building an understanding of the existing pain points for Thyia to address.

At-home screening has the potential to be an attractive solution to breaking barriers to cervical screening participation

Key strengths of the user interface and opportunities for improvement were captured through observations and capturing valuable feedback and suggestions.

The usability evaluation outputs were layered on top of the existing cervical screening experiences User Journey Map, to emphasise where Thyia are currently addressing pain points and where key opportunities for improvement lie.

“The interface is easy to use. I can’t think of any other information that I would want to know that is not here”

“I love it, It’s such a good idea. It sounds brilliant, definitely something I would use and do”

This early-stage, low-scale primary research provided initial evidence suggesting that Thyia’s convenient and discreet solution has a strong proposition to help overcome barriers to existing screening procedures in the UK. With further improvements and considerations around accuracy of self-testing, participants perceived themselves using the product at home over conventional screening methods.

Interested in implementing User Research into your device development?

If you would like more information about our services at We are Human, we would love to hear from you

Images c/o Mettle 

Further reading from Dr Chris Ross at Thyia: At-home smear tests: separating fact from fiction