The importance of rhythms for maintaining consent in diagnostic encounters to detect cervical cancer

Lynne Baxter*, Catherine Wright

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Diagnostic encounters can be seen as complex socio-material processes. Drawing on the new materialist ideas of Barad, we studied how an innovative technology became part of the intra-actions between different human and non-human materialities in a cervical cancer diagnostic process. While researching the development of a technology intended to improve cervical cancer detection, we carried out a series of observations of diagnostic encounters involving clinicians, patients and the device in a hospital. The intra-actions between the different materialities had rhythmic properties, repeated activities and timings that varied in intensity, for example, movements, exchanged looks, and talk that helped co-produce the diagnosis and maintain consent. Sadly, the device interfered with the rhythms, undermining the clinicians’ desire to adopt it, despite it being more accurate at diagnosing ill health than previous assistive technologies. Studying rhythms as part of diagnostic encounters could help with the design and subsequent integration of novel technologies in healthcare, because they encompass relationships created by human and non-human materialities. Importantly, highlighting the role of rhythms contributes another way diagnostic encounters are co-produced between clinicians and patients, and how they can be disrupted, improving the understanding of how consent is maintained or lost.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Early online date22 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jan 2024


  • cancer detection
  • cervical cancer
  • new materialism
  • qualitative
  • rhythms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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