by Laura Starita
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How government health agencies can leverage AI-powered language to improve constituent outcomes

business professionals discussing government AI optionsSeventy-five percent of government leaders who responded to Persado’s AI in Creativity survey say they planned to leverage AI in their marketing and communications functions in 2021. This is just one demonstration of how government organizations, like their private sector counterparts, are embracing AI. Others include the January 1, 2021 enactment of the National AI Act of 2020, as well as surveys revealing government leader’s enthusiasm for leveraging AI as a tool to augment the government workforce.

Language AI in the public sector

According to a Gartner survey on digitalization in government, one field of AI garnering particular attention from government agencies is natural language processing, or NLP. That’s the area of AI concerned with recognizing and understanding human speech and producing human-sounding responses. Deloitte highlights that depending on how it is trained, language AI applications can fulfill any combination of the following eight capabilities for governments:

Those capabilities reveal ways that governments could benefit today from language AI. For example, agencies could conduct social listening campaigns to identify trending subjects where they need to focus public service announcements; or a service agency could leverage language AI to anonymize personal records – such as those related to public safety or health services – before analyzing trends in the data. The latter is already a tested idea in government: the US National Library of Medicine’s Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications reportedly uses NLP to “de-identify” clinical information in medical reports to protect patient privacy.

Language AI can also improve outward-facing communication with stakeholders. Persado’s proprietary language generation and decisioning AI is designed to find the right words and word combinations to engage audience segments, and even individuals. It can allow public sector agencies to communicate one-to-one at scale in a human way that builds trust.

Language AI for government: Benefits for health services agencies

Health and wellness agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), to say nothing of the hundreds of local health agencies, are responsible for communicating with millions of stakeholders. They have a huge opportunity to build trust and provide superior customer experience through more effective language. Doing so could quite literally save lives, and improve health outcomes at lower per-constituent costs. A few key opportunities for language AI include:

1. How language AI can streamline Medicare or Medicaid Enrollment

When people become eligible to enroll in Medicare or Medicaid, the CMS must reach them through the right media with information that helps them understand the services available to them. This is harder than it sounds. 

Research has found that there is a significant amount of constituent education that needs to happen at the outset to enable constituents to understand their coverage, what they need to do to receive it, and make choices about the specific programs that are best for them – for example, to cover prescription medications. The channel used to communicate as well as the specific words and details all affect how well an enrollee understands the services and uses them for optimum outcomes.

As a case in point, Persado worked with a Louisiana health insurer to improve uptake of the personal health coaching that is part of their service. By optimizing the language of an email campaign promoting the service, Persado helped the insurer increase participation by 67% above what it was able to achieve on its own.

2. Language AI to improve health compliance

A small number of health conditions are responsible for the majority of health problems – and by extension of healthcare costs. Outcomes improve dramatically when patients comply with health advice, but as many as 40% of people do not understand how to manage their conditions, or forget to follow their regimens as prescribed. More relevant and more consistent communication can help.

For example, a systematic review of the impact of using mobile texts to communicate health information related to efforts like smoking cessation, diabetes management, and others found that the constituents saw improved outcomes or health behaviors.

The details of the message are as important as the medium. Persado’s language AI analyzes human-generated messages for organizations and conducts experiments to identify the words, syntax, formatting, images, etc. that improve a message’s impact on the constituent’s behavior.

In one of Persado’s experiments with Humana, a large health administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, we tested the ideal language to use in flu vaccine promotion campaigns. Upon analyzing Humana’s proposed email subject line, “Be sure to protect yourself and your loved ones this flu season”, Persado’s AI found that adding the constituent’s name, followed by the words, “We’re serious about protecting you this flu season” improved the email open rate by 50% above the original.

3. Words matter when talking about mental health

Mental health has become an area of heightened concern in the wellness space. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this existing crisis. The toll of isolation, stress, income pressure and overwork has driven rising rates of anxiety, depression and burnout. The CDC has been playing a key role at the federal level to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and point people to resources they can access to get help. 

Language AI can fine-tune the language of those messages to reach constituents, or even personalize the content depending on what kind of help a constituent is looking for, and whether it is for themselves, their child, or a loved one.

Nor are federal agencies the only government entities that can benefit from improved communication through more effective language. Local governments are on the front lines of making sure residents get the services they need. Campaigns that proactively find ways to deliver key information go a long way toward improving access and outcomes. 

For example, Mental Health Connecticut, a local organization in the Waterbury/Litchfield area, set up a “call tree” program during the COVID-19 pandemic to route people experiencing homelessness to live call center agents authorized to work with the local housing authority.

Health is one of the areas where governments have the greatest direct, positive impact on the wellbeing of their communities. With language AI, governments can engage stakeholders at massive scale with messages that encourage healthy decisions.