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Navigating Health Inequities: Strategies for Digital Health Equity

As John Green insightfully notes in The Anthropocene Reviewed, “Disease only treats humans equally when our social orders treat humans equally.”

Yet, daily, we witness the continuation of health inequities through systemic barriers like inaccessible healthcare, disparities in information access, and food deserts.

Our latest white paper, Digital Engagement Strategies to Support Health Equity, provides a comprehensive blueprint for addressing these persistent disparities.

It identifies four pivotal areas ripe for innovation:  

  1. enhancing accessibility
  2. boosting health literacy
  3. addressing social drivers of health (SDoH)
  4. fostering cultural competency

Challenge 1: Accessibility 

Accessibility spotlights the basic right of individuals to access healthcare services, a right hindered by transportation challenges, disabilities, language barriers, and systemic distrust. Despite the potential of digital technology to close these gaps, the digital divide leaves 14.5 million Americans without reliable internet, severely limiting access to telehealth services, patient portals, and online appointment scheduling. Yet, with 97% of Americans owning a mobile phone, alternative channels like SMS, IVR, and printed communications hold the key to bridging this divide.

SMS

90% of text messages are read in the first three minutes, and ownership levels remain incredibly high regardless of SDoH factors such as age, income level, ethnicity, or education.

IVR and Print Communication

These are effective channels that don’t rely on internet access and can bridge the digital divide for the portions of your member or patient population that are largely cut off from the digital world.

Conversational AI and Natural Language Understanding (NLU)

These technologies offer promising avenues for addressing accessibility challenges. Conversational AI uses technology to interpret and intelligently respond to a message, creating tailored conversations with thousands of people at a time without the need for human involvement. NLU enables computers to understand the intent of a message even if it doesn’t conform to standard, expected responses and to account for typos or off-script responses. NLU allows the interaction with each person to continue in a way that feels familiar, conversational, and natural.

With these two capabilities coupled together, you have a uniquely powerful tool for assessing and breaking down barriers to access on a large scale.

Download the full content to see real use cases from healthcare organizations deploying these solutions in market today »

Challenge 2: Health Literacy 

Health literacy underlines the critical role of understanding and using health information in making informed health decisions. A staggering $106–$238 billion is added to healthcare costs annually due to inadequate health literacy. Simplifying communication, using clear and actionable language, and employing visuals and stories can make health information more digestible and engaging, thus improving health outcomes and reducing costs.

The way you talk to people matters

For example, almost half of American Adults read below an 8th-grade level, yet health content, on average, reads at a 12th-grade level. When outreaching, we therefore recommend using clear, relatable, readable, and actionable language, defining and breaking down complex terms, and using visuals to make information engaging and understandable.

Pair your learning strategy with technology

Pairing a strong learning strategy with technological capabilities like Conversational AI and NLU allows organizations to identify why individuals aren’t seeking care and deliver engaging, helpful content that will educate and raise their overall health literacy level. For example, the content below shows how you can use streaming content to encourage health actions such as vaccination.

Challenge 3: Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) 

SDoH significantly shape health outcomes, often more than medical care. With socioeconomic status, education level, and ethnicity playing crucial roles in health disparities, employing SDoH indexing and tailored outreach becomes essential in delivering personalized care and resources, effectively addressing the unique needs of each individual.

SDoH Indexing

SDoH Indexing enables healthcare organizations to predict and address individual needs, facilitating tailored outreach and resource allocation.

With Conversational AI and NLU, you can use the SDoH Index to support personalized conversations across your entire population with outreach that is respectful of and responsive to health beliefs, practices, and needs across diverse populations. 

Community-Based Resources

Community-based resources are gathered from people’s engagement with these tailored programs. Their responses help to validate the SDoH Index’s predictions and provide deeper insights. Organizations can collect data points from these conversations, which satisfy HEDIS requirements for Race and Ethnicity Stratification (RES), and these data points can be automatically updated in the member profile.

Challenge 4: Cultural Competency 

Cultural Competency highlights the importance of inclusivity in healthcare, recognizing the diverse experiences that influence individuals’ interactions with the healthcare system. From ensuring language inclusivity to adopting a stance of cultural humility, healthcare outreach and resources must reflect and respect the rich tapestry of human experience, fostering trust and improving health outcomes across all communities.

Language and Word Choice

Speaking to your health population in their preferred language is a fundamental practice for cultural competency, as is having the ability to adjust.

However, word choice can also build or erode a relationship. Certain words can trigger distrust or, conversely, show a deeper understanding of an individual’s culture and life.

What does this look like in practices? Download the white paper to see examples and outcomes from programs addressing these challenges »

The Power of Perception

We all tend to perceive ourselves and our environment subjectively. When creating outreach and streaming content, organizations should strive to create characters and storylines that resonate with their audience.

For example, the fotonovela to the left used in a colorectal cancer screening program was developed in Spanish and English with separate versions for men and women. To ensure that the fotonovelas were compelling, the storyline used characters who were 50–75-year old Hispanic or Latino patients and who looked and talked like they could be the patient’s best friend or neighbor.

Cultural Humility

Cultural Humility is an ongoing process of self-exploration and self-critique combined with a willingness to learn from others. Listening and evolving are key parts of this process. Use technology to listen and collect back data to help you learn and adjust your programs at scale. 

Want to learn more about use cases and opportunities around health equity? Digital Strategies to Support Health Equity serves as a compelling guide for organizations committed to dismantling the barriers to health equity through innovative digital solutions. It offers a glimpse into mPulse’s commitment to using technology to enhance accessibility, literacy, and personalization in healthcare, aiming to create a more equitable future for all.

Generative AI, Conversational AI, Predictive Analytics – What Works Best for Preventive Healthcare: Part 2

To learn more about how AI can be applied in proactive and personalized healthcare strategies for members and patients, check out Part 1 of this blog series

AI-powered solutions, such as predictive analytics, generative AI, and conversational AI, are revolutionizing how healthcare organizations engage with patients and members to promote preventive care.

  • Predictive analytics enable proactive identification of health risks within populations, allowing for targeted interventions tailored to individual needs.
  • Generative AI can help streamline clinical decision support and content creation, facilitating personalized care recommendations and communication at scale.
  • Conversational AI, with its natural language processing (NLP) capabilities, can deliver automated, targeted interventions that help individuals overcome barriers to accessing preventive care. 

These AI-driven approaches not only enhance efficiency and scalability of healthcare organizations’ initiatives but can also foster better engagement and outcomes. By leveraging AI technologies, healthcare organizations can help patients and members navigate the complexities of the healthcare landscape, empower them to take control of their health, and ultimately, pave the way for a healthier future. 

Risks & Mitigations: Combating Bias in AI for Healthcare 

Within the public discourse on AI’s many benefits, there has also been a robust debate around ethical concerns, namely the potential for bias in training data sets and model design. Because these models are developed by people, they could end up replicating the biases of their creators. If AI bias is present in preventive care practices or treatment recommendations, this could pose a risk for unfair outcomes, perpetuating and compounding health disparities.

Healthcare leaders can help put safeguards in place by working with technology providers or internal AI solution developers to ensure training data and algorithmic transparency. Decision Point by mPulse mitigates the risk of bias and representation of diverse groups in training data sets through detailed model governance procedures, recurring audits, and rigorous documentation – all of which serves to also facilitate transparency with partners.

Navigating Reliability and Accuracy in AI Applications 

Another risk surrounding AI that has graced headlines for the past several months is reliability and accuracy of results produced through AI. Reliability and accuracy are of the foremost importance in preventive care, therefore healthcare organizations will need to consider context, use case and type of AI applied.

Due to challenges in the variability of outputs, using Generative AI-powered chat bots to run conversations with patients and health plan members would not be an advisable context or use case for this tool as it could pose an ethical and legal risk if the chatbots and their recommendations are not closely supervised by their human counterparts.

To ensure reliability of its conversational AI technology, mPulse conducts ongoing monitoring by its in-house team and maintains an over 93% accuracy in response handling. Because mPulse’s conversational AI leverages natural language understanding (NLU) that is rules-based, it is easy to adjust should any updates be needed or if inaccuracy in content is identified.

It does not rely on large language models (LLMs) that would need to be retrained. mPulse’s NLU is also programmed with “autoresponders” such as “sorry” or “contact us” that can be triggered if the intent of a member or patient response is not understood. mPulse’s AI technology has been developed through 10+ years of working solely in healthcare contexts.

It has also been fine-tuned to healthcare use cases and designed with safeguards in place such as escalations and alerts to client team members should any safety or self-harm risks be identified.

Healthcare Regulatory Compliance and Data Security in AI  

Regulatory compliance and data security is another area that has caused apprehension in adopting AI into a healthcare organization’s daily practices. In the highly regulated industry of healthcare – any technology that doesn’t meet mandates for data privacy, security and ethical use is a nonstarter. 

  • Safeguarding Risks with AI Designed for Healthcare: Utilizing AI technology specifically tailored for healthcare use-cases is one way that organizations can help mitigtate risks. mPulse has focused exclusively on supporting healthcare organizations since its inception, committing to rigorous HIPAA data protection practices and upholding HITRUST, SOC 2 Type 2 regulatory compliance certifications. This ensures the data from healthcare partners and the members and patients they serve is safely managed. 
  • Challenges with Generative AI: Contrarily, generative AI technologies is have yet to universally achieve HIPAA compliance due to their uncontrolled outputs, posing potential risks for accidental Protected Health Information (PHI) exposure. The large language models (LLM) that the technology utilizes, require vast amounts of training data that can obfuscate data sources and whether or not these contained PHI.  
  • Collaboration for Industry Standards: As AI becomes more integrated into healthcare operations, it’s imperative for healthcare leaders, technology experts, and regulatory bodies to collaborate, establishing industry standards and risk mitigation best practices. 
  • The Upside of AI Adoption: Leveraging AI in healthcare promises significant benefits, from enhanced patient outcomes to operational cost savings. These advantages can directly improve financial performance, and offer the potential to reallocate funds to support further resources and services for those in need.

In summary, navigating the complexities of AI adoption requires consideration of compliance and security standards and evaluating the best use cases for different forms of AI, particularly in a field as sensitive as healthcare. By prioritizing these aspects, healthcare organizations can harness AI’s potential responsibly and effectively. 

Generative AI, Conversational AI, Predictive Analytics – What Works Best for Preventive Healthcare: Part 1

With the launch and rapid adoption of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the topic of artificial intelligence has entered the zeitgeist, sweeping headlines, startup funding announcements, guidance from the White House, earnings calls, and trade conference floors at an exponential rate. 

While artificial intelligence (AI) has been used for decades within healthcare and medical contexts, there have been significant advancements in AI systems’ scale of data analysis, algorithm capability and neural network complexity, expanding AI into a multitude of forms and applications.

AI-powered products are now more widely accessible than ever before and touted to offer transformational impacts to healthcare and life sciences, across a variety of use cases from identifying operational efficiencies through predictive analytics in diagnostics, to speeding drug molecule discovery for clinical trials and reducing pharmaceutical research and development costs.

How is AI Applied in Preventive Care?

Preventive care has become an increasingly important area of focus to reduce hospital admissions and increase the probability of positive health outcomes. This is especially critical when working with those who are impacted by chronic conditions or experience health inequities.

AI offers the potential to help the healthcare industry make further strides in preventive health by providing organizations with data-driven insights about the populations they serve and dynamically overcoming member and patient barriers to care at scale. By leveraging various types of AI, healthcare organizations can expand staff capacity and augment skillsets to amplify their preventive care initiatives.

For example, health plans’ member service call staff are often inundated with inbound calls and high wait times, resulting in member dissatisfaction and abrasion. By applying intelligent digital solutions, powered by conversational AI to scale automated outreach, call centers can extend their capacity for member support. Conversational AI technology, which simulates human conversation through natural language understanding (NLU), can be used to: 

  • Address member and patient barriers to taking health actions 
  • Answer common and frequently asked questions about benefits and plan operations 
  • Deliver patient resources for upcoming preventive screenings

Predictive analytics that leverage AI and machine learning (ML) to analyze existing data and predict possible outcomes can support healthcare organizations by analyzing large historical data sets, from claims to health status data and provide predictions for risk levels across their population. This form of AI significantly reduces the time it takes to get from data to insights and can help inform preventive health strategies and resource allocation based on risk stratification.

Another type of AI, generative AI, can also assist in preventive care practices by expanding healthcare staff skillsets and reducing administrative burden. Generative AI is powered by large language models (LLM), deep-learning, and probabilistic algorithms. It processes unstructured data to anticipate, then generate content. Microsoft, for instance, is exploring how generative AI can help clinicians supplement their communication abilities through rapidly translating patient-facing care guidelines and educational materials into multiple languages and reading levels. 

Proactive And Personalized Care: The Role of AI  

To really move the needle on preventive care across populations served, healthcare organizations will need to shift from a reactive stance, addressing health conditions after they have already occurred, to a proactive and individualized strategy. A proactive strategy that focuses on early detection and intervention for potential health issues requires moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to providing targeted and personalized member and patient experiences.

Recent studies suggest that personalization in healthcare communication and interventions not only promotes better engagement but also better outcomes. Doing this cost-efficiently and at scale is an area where Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play a very valuable role.

So, which forms of AI can work best to assist healthcare organizations with this proactive and personalized care strategy? Let’s explore below:

Predictive Analytics

Taking preventive care initiatives to the next level begins with thoroughly understanding what’s going on in your population today as well as what could happen tomorrow. Arguably, risk identification and stratification are essential steps towards proactive disease and condition prevention. By applying predictive models to a variety of datasets, organizations can gain a more holistic picture of where and what risk lies within their member and patient populations.

Consider a scenario where, it’s coming up on the holiday season and only 40% of eligible members at a health plan have had their flu shot vaccination. If this health plan has a predictive analytics solution in place, it could apply predictive AI models to analyze data sources including: 

  • Demographics 
  • History of plan engagement 
  • Clinical and medical conditions 
  • Social Drivers of Health (SDoH) factors 

These models leverage machine learning (ML) to identify patterns and segment the population into high, medium and low risk for completing the vaccination ahead of flu season.

For some of these members, missing a vaccination this year might not pose a significant health risk. However, for others, due to their demographics, socioeconomic status, and comorbidities – skipping the vaccine could lead to hospitalization or worse. This widespread non-compliance signals a need for general awareness about the vaccination, but some members will need additional support in overcoming their unique barriers to getting the vaccine. Uncovering these insights enables organizations to direct the right resources to the right individuals precisely when they need them most. When it comes to directing the right resources to the right individuals, conversational AI can also be a powerful tool for targeting and personalizing an organization’s flu vaccination outreach efforts.

While some predictive analytics technology providers primarily focus on population trends, Decision Point by mPulse dives deeper, pinpointing risk at the individual member level. Capable of ingesting data in any format, Decision Point examines each member’s current and past health experiences to forecast future behavior, offering a comprehensive view and of a member’s journey and a personalized risk profile.

By harnessing these insights, plans can engage more effectively and target individuals within their population, to provide highly personalized and relevant interventions, whether that’s through phone calls, emails, in-home visits, or SMS messages. This ability to confidently make informed, data-driven decisions enables the creation of precise preventive care strategies. Such targeted approaches have led to significant achievements for clients, such as a 21% annual reduction in avoidable readmissions, showcasing the power of personalized healthcare.

Generative AI

Generative AI, with its ability to analyze, anticipate and create using large language models (LLMs), also makes it an innovative tool in proactive and personalized healthcare initiatives. One of generative AI’s superpowers is its capability to swiftly process and summarize large swaths of data and distill content into concise, organized takeaways in minutes or seconds – tasks that could otherwise take a human-counterpart hours to complete.

This is particularly valuable when it comes to decision support for healthcare organizations and clinicians focused on preventive care. Often, the early detection and intervention for health conditions before they progress is hindered by the fragmented and overwhelming amount of data regarding a member or patient.

By summarizing an individual patient’s records and identifying patterns, generative AI can support speed to care before conditions escalate. It can further assist by crafting personalized care recommendations based on analyzing individual patient profiles and generating resources such as tailored medication regimens, screening protocols, tactics to reduce disease risk, or guidance for overall wellness promotion.

When it comes to communicating with members and patients in a personalized and proactive way, generative AI can also be a useful tool. It can predict and create “first-draft” responses for healthcare staff by analyzing text-based interactions with patients and applying LLMs to anticipate the most helpful replies.

However, at least for the time being, generative AI has its challenges, notably the inability to fully control generated outputs and the need for more LLMs adapted to the nuances of healthcare contexts. A recent study found that patient-friendly outputs of discharge summaries were significantly easier to understand when created by generative AI, however a notable fraction of summaries reviewed had accuracy issues that posed potential patient safety risks.

Conversational AI 

Deployed through messaging platforms, websites or dedicated chat applications, conversational AI utilizes natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) to interpret text-based or spoken content and communicate with users in a way that mirrors bi-directional human conversation.

This form of AI is extremely valuable when healthcare organizations need to provide scalable and targeted interventions aimed at preventive care. While in an ideal world, every person could be assigned a care or case manager to help them navigate the intricacies of the US healthcare system and effectively access preventative care, this is not feasible from a cost perspective.

Conversational AI is a tool that organizations can use to deliver automated, targeted, digital interventions promoting awareness of cancer screening reminders, for example, and helpful resources such as information on plan benefits or links to educational content that can help members overcome barriers to preventive care.

Instead of generating new content like generative AI, conversational AI works by using NLP and NLU algorithms to understand what a user says, classify the intent and trigger the correct, pre-written response. The “correct response” is determined based on a set of predefined rules. This feature of conversational AI makes it work well for the sensitive topics and stringent regulatory environment of healthcare.

mPulse has developed proprietary conversational AI and NLU technology that is “deterministic” in nature and is specially designed for healthcare contexts. mPulse’s conversational AI capabilities have been built on a foundation of rule-based systems to control the context for what, how, and when communication happens with consumers and have been fine-tuned with over a decade of working exclusively with healthcare organizations.

Unlike generative AI where outputs cannot yet be controlled, mPulse’s conversational AI operates in a closed-system and deterministic way. This supports healthcare use cases because it ensures that any content triggered to members can be pre-written by our in-house team of behavioral science and health equity experts and can be pre-approved by clients to be in-line with specific regulatory requirements (such as from CMS or adjustments needed for state-based Medicaid language). 

Where mPulse’s conversational AI excels in supporting preventive care initiatives is in its ability to deliver tailored and personalized “digital interventions” that help members overcome barriers to accessing the care they need.

mPulse can deploy digital programs across target populations to encourage members to complete their preventive screenings or stay adherent to medications, for example. As a member interacts with the conversational AI-powered program, NLU enables mPulse to understand not only the member’s intent, but also their personal barriers, in order to deliver timely and relevant support to maximize the likelihood of engagement.

Across results from mPulse’s digital program for breast cancer preventive screenings, a top member barrier that has been identified is around “nervousness or anxiety” about getting the screening. If a member responds to a reminder they are due for the screening with something like “I’m scared they’ll find something,” mPulse’s conversational AI has been designed to trigger a supportive response written with behavioral science best practices, as well as a helpful educational resource that explains why early detection is critical.

Thoughtfully designed programs paired with powerful AI technology has helped mPulse’s partners achieve results like 26% improvement in breast cancer screening completions compared to control groups.

Stay Tuned For

The rise of artificial intelligence has sparked a transformational shift in healthcare’s preventive care strategies. The convergence of advanced algorithms, expansive data sets and innovative AI technology has ushered in a new era of digital solutions that healthcare institutions can leverage as a part of their proactive and personalized care initiatives.

As the industry continues to innovate and integrate AI into healthcare organizations’ existing processes, it is imperative to understand the variety of forms of AI and how these can be applied to different use cases. This will help mitigate risk and maximize the positive impact to health outcomes. To learn more about mitigating risk in the adoption of AI technology within healthcare contexts and the power of combining predictive analytics with conversational AI-driven interventions, check out part 2 of this blog series 

Health Equity, Part 3: Leveraging Digital Capabilities to Combat Food Insecurity

In recent years, approximately 10% of households in the United States reported experiencing food insecurity. This represents over 32 million Americans who can’t afford balanced meals, are worried food will run out or are going hungry throughout the day. 

America is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. So why are so many Americans facing food insecurity? Of those who have access to food, how many households have access to healthy, nutritious food?  

Understanding the link between food insecurity and health outcomes is crucial in addressing this pervasive issue. 

Lack of Access: Food Apartheid & High Costs 

A food desert is a geographic area where residents must travel further to reach a supermarket with fresh food options. Recent USDA data indicates that 54 million Americans struggle with food insecurity in America, and about 23 million Americans live in a food desert. Additionally, 2 million of those residing in food deserts lack access to a car, creating an additional barrier to obtaining healthy food. 

Recognizing the inequities in food access can guide us in effectively creating more equitable food systems and addressing food insecurity more broadly. 

Together, these 3 major factors impact individual choices on food: 

  1. Cost: Healthier foods (like fruits and vegetables) are generally more expensive 
  2. Location: Stores are hard to reach without reliable transportation 
  3. Time: Home-cooked meals take time and equipment to prepare 

Want to learn more about how plans can fight against health inequities among their members? Download the White Paper » 

Cost

Income and race are major predictors of food insecurity. Compounding these are employment and disability status—unemployment makes it harder to meet basic food needs, and adults with disabilities are at a higher risk of food insecurity due to limited employment opportunities.  

Food deserts exist mostly in communities of color, with White neighborhoods averaging 4 times as many supermarkets than their predominantly Black counterparts. In 2020, 29% of low-income families were food insecure, and Black households were over two times more likely to be food insecure than the national average. Moreover, approximately 1 in every 4 indigenous Americans face food insecurity. To overcome this food apartheid, we must acknowledge how colonialism have shaped food spaces and the intersectional inequalities that create inequitable food systems. 

Location 

While economic injustices are the main drivers of food insecurity, location also plays a critical role. Research has shown that historically discriminatory policies, such as redlining of African American communities and land theft from Native nations, have mapped to current food insecurity patterns—and suggest that racism, housing discrimination, forced displacement, and other systemic factors compound individual level risks of food insecurity for historically marginalized populations.  

Rural communities must travel far distances, and urban communities are often food swamps, where people are forced to turn to convenience stores, fast food, and junk food. In these small neighborhood stores, it may still be difficult for minorities to find culturally appropriate food, choices are limited and may not meet dietary restrictions, and there is an upcharge on products, especially fresh produce.  

Time 

Those who can overcome costs and distance must combat the next barrier—cooking a meal. Studies show that home-cooked meals contain more fiber and less sodium and sugar. However, meal preparation takes time, and the amount of time a family can devote to cooking depends on work schedule, work commute time, family composition, and other factors. It also depends on the availability of other resources such as electricity, kitchen appliances, and kitchen supplies, which poses an additional barrier for unhoused populations.  

When facing these barriers, individuals and families with strained budgets are likelier to turn to processed and fast foods. This is cheaper in the short-term—saving time and money—but the long-term consequences are deadly. 

The Health Outcomes 

These nutrient-deficient diets increase the risk of chronic illnesses such as hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. They are an underlying cause of the major racial disparities in chronic illnesses. In fact, minorities are up to two times more likely to have these chronic illnesses. Further exacerbating this issue, food-insecure children also face a higher risk of developmental issues compared to food-secure children.  

While the health care system can help manage these diseases, addressing a root cause—lack of access to healthy food due to cost and other barriers—can help lower the prevalence of chronic illnesses and consequently decrease mortality rates. 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs: CalFresh 

Food assistance programs aim to address barriers and increase access to food, thereby mitigating food insecurity and improving food insecurity and health outcomes. Programs like the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are key governmental public health efforts designed to bolster food security. 

In California, the CalFresh program, a state-specific SNAP initiative, helps families access healthy food by providing an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card usable at most grocery stores and farmers’ markets. CalFresh targets residents with low-to-no income, limited property, or those who receive state supplements. Reflecting California’s diverse demographic, a significant portion of the program’s beneficiaries includes naturalized citizens (19%), refugees (15%), and other noncitizens (15%), highlighting its role in supporting varied communities in overcoming food insecurity. 

Demystifying Enrollment: A Path to Food Security 

To increase the number of eligible people who sign up for CalFresh, mPulse sent tailored digital health communications to over 2.2 million eligible households using both short message service (SMS) and email modalities. The content was curated to feel empathic, relatable, and straightforward, ultimately increasing awareness and education around the CalFresh program and destigmatizing negative perceptions.  

It defined the application process, gave ideas on how much money a member was eligible for, and made it easy to start the application process. Multimedia messaging service (MMS) infographics were included to make the information easier to understand. This messaging, available in 7 languages, aimed to drive action by increasing conversations around understanding of eligibility, recertification, and the application process.

Outcomes showed that messaging was successful overall in increasing literacy around enrollment and empowering members to enroll, with 20.5% of households engaging with the content. More specifically, 62,000 households initiated digital applications, and 22,000 households completed enrollment in supplemental food benefits. This translates to an estimated cost savings of $4.4 million for using digital-first outreach compared to traditional outreach methods.

With tailored health communications, benefits programs like CalFresh can reach more households, bridge the gap in food insecurity, and ultimately reduce health disparities. These efforts are crucial in devising effective food insecurity solutions.  

Read our white paper, Digital Engagement Strategies to Support Health Equity, to learn more about using digital engagement strategies to promote health equity and tackle food insecurity challenges.

mPulse Recognizes Innovative Healthcare Organizations in the Sixth Annual Activate 2023 Awards

mPulse Mobile recently wrapped up its fifth annual Activate conference with the Activate Awards, which provided yet another celebration of healthcare leadership, innovative program design, and improved health outcomes amidst various health engagement challenges.

The theme of Activate2022, The Power of Behavioral Science to Drive Health Action, was reflected throughout the conference with captivating speaker sessions and expert panel discussions. Networking inspired exciting conversation around innovative technology, behavior change design, and consumer experience, and the Activate Awards surely brought those conversations full circle.

The awards help illuminate health plans, health systems, health service providers, PBMs and other types of healthcare organizations that utilized new strategies or unique tools to activate their consumer populations. The companies highlighted each year typically face barriers with engaging a certain population or driving specific health actions, so they search for innovative solutions to tackle those challenges. 

For example, in 2019, CountyCare saw drastic rates of members losing Medicaid coverage, so the managed care organization (MCO) implemented automated text dialogues and saw their Redetermination rates improve by 3.3 percentage points in just one month, subsequently running away with the Most Improved Consumer Experience award. Last year, CareSource incorporated secure surveys, SMS, and streaming video to significantly impact their hard-to-reach members – they won 2021’s Best Use of Conversational A.I.  

The same story is true for this year’s winners.   

The remaining 3 award categories are Achieving Health Equity, Most Innovative Solution and Most Significant Outcome. Like the teamwork and critical thinking generated from breakout workshops and Q&A during the conference, the awards are a celebration of two companies that partnered together to overcome consumer barriers or gaps in care by building uniquely tailored engagement programs. 

Here are the winners of the 2022 Activate Awards: 

Achieving Health Equity

 
Program Goal
Increase Colorectal Cancer Screenings

AltaMed Health Services is one of the largest Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) in the United States and provides a range of health services to Latino, multi-ethnic and underserved communities in Southern California. After seeing a steep drop in colorectal cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the health center sought a solution that could help patients overcome barriers like language and lack of awareness of services. 

AltaMed partnered with mPulse to deliver multi-lingual, educational health content to patients using mobile fotonovelas tailored to both males and females who had not completed a screening. Patients received and digested vital communication about getting screened, where to find the nearest screening site, and more through culturally sensitive stories delivered in a familiar format.  

A randomized control study found that 63% of patients who responded to the fotonovelas either liked or loved it, and 39% reported it positively impacted their willingness to act. By educating patients with curated content, AltaMed closed a key screening gap, lifted health literacy and perhaps most importantly – made significant progress toward health equity.

Notable Outcome
Patients that viewed the fotonovelas (19%) were more likely to submit a sample for cancer screening than patients in a control group (11%)

Best Use of Conversational A.I.

 
A Technology-Enabled Health Services Company
 
 
Program Goal 
Promote smoking cessation among teen vapers 

This leading health services organization employs over 210,000 employees globally and utilizes technology-enabled solutions to promote consumer wellness and population health. A major public health problem facing young adults, particularly teens, across the U.S. is the use of e-cigarettes, or vaping. The company sought to promote smoking cessation among teen vapers, a cohort still widely understudied, by implementing intelligent conversational solutions and educational content.

They collaborated with mPulse to build a personalized SMS program, lasting 4-6 months, that leveraged Natural Language Understanding (NLU) to deliver automated, interactive text dialogues to a targeted teen population. Individuals were also provided custom-built streaming health videos that offered tips on quitting and even an option to connect with an SMS coach. 

The use of NLU enabled the delivery of automated messaging based on text responses, which helped the organization direct each individual to the appropriate resource. The program yielded an 85% engagement rate, and ultimately 69% of participating teens completed the program. The key result, that 73% of teens in the program set a date to quit vaping, demonstrates the value in utilizing automated text conversations and on-demand content to promote smoking cessation in vulnerable teens.

Notable Outcome 
73% of participating teens set a quit date
 
 

Check out a new streaming health course for smoking cessation. »

 

Most Improved Consumer Experience

 
CalOptima Health
 
 
Program Goal 
Increase Awareness of SNAP benefits (CalFresh)

CalOptima Health is a County Organized Health System that provides health insurance coverage for low-income children, adults, seniors and people with disabilities. As Orange County’s largest health plan, the organization includes a network of over 10,000 primary care doctors and serves over 900,000 Medi-Cal beneficiaries. The health system looked to address a gap they had identified with low-income families enrolling in the state’s food assistance program, CalFresh, federally known as SNAP.

CalOptima and mPulse partnered to launch a two-way texting campaign, which utilized interactive SMS powered by NLU and tailored to 7 different languages. The health plan addressed language barriers by delivering vital information about CalFresh’s food security benefits to underserved families and Medi-Cal members in their preferred language.  

Through automated text workflows, members could respond in their native language with answers like: “I already have CalFresh” or “I want to apply.” The program has continued to expand, having delivered over 5 million messages in 2022 already. Communicating with members according to their preferences about important CalFresh benefits helped CalOptima both improve consumer experience and reduce food insecurity for an at-risk population.  

 
Notable Outcome 
Over 5 million messages delivered to members in 2022 about CalFresh benefits

Like what you’re reading? Join us next year for Activate2023! Secure your spot now. »

Most Innovative Solution

 
 
Program Goal 
Drive members to schedule a diabetic eye exam

Humana is one of the five largest health plans in the country according to member enrollment and has been partnered with mPulse for over 10 years. With more than 20 million members, including over 5 million Medicare members, the plan looked to close a gap with their members scheduling the annual diabetic eye exam.

The plan worked with mPulse to launch an SMS texting campaign to increase awareness around the importance of the eye exam and to drive members to schedule an exam. The program featured A/B testing, in which one half of members was provided a 30-second streaming health video in the initial message while the other half received only text.  

The educational video enabled a learning experience that was easily accessible and familiar, concluding with a URL for members to learn more about scheduling the eye exam. Humana saw a remarkable 270% increase in clicks to schedule an exam when outreach included the streaming video. The test demonstrates that using streaming health content alongside two-way conversational solutions can significantly help activate hard-to-reach members with diabetes.

Notable Outcome 
270% increase in clicks to schedule a diabetic eye exam when outreach included 30-second streaming video

Most Significant Outcome (tie)

 
A Technology-Enabled Pharmacy Services Company
 
 
Program Goal 
Improve member experience and pharmacy engagement

The leading PBM and pharmacy services company is nationally recognized and fills over 1 billion prescriptions annually for millions of healthcare consumers across the country. With a rapidly growing population, the healthcare leader sought a solution to improve pharmacy patient engagement by utilizing a new communication channel for its home delivery pharmacy and prior authorization programs. 

The pharmacy leader partnered with mPulse to roll out more than 50 outbound-dialer Interactive Voice Response (IVR) campaigns. The IVR messages notified members about prior authorization approvals/denials, refill reminders, shipping details and doctor responses.  

Ultimately, over 5.8 million IVR records were exchanged and the outbound dialer launched over 5.1 million total calls. By offering a new avenue for members to complete a healthy action like ordering medications, the pharmacy enterprise initiated meaningful conversations to help enhance member experience, improve self-service capabilities, and close pharmacy engagement gaps.

Notable Outcome 
Reached over 2.2 million members with 55,000+ members giving SMS consent

Most Significant Outcome (tie)

 
 
Program Goal 
Improve refill adherence for HIV patients 

MetroPlus Health Plan is a subsidiary of NYC Health & Hospitals, the largest municipal health system in the country. The insurance organization serves a diverse group of over 600,000 New York residents across Medicaid Managed Care, Medicare, D-SNP, MLTC and more plan types. A big challenge for the plan was getting HIV patients to refill medications that are pivotal to managing their condition and avoiding complications.

MetroPlus partnered with mPulse to educate the vulnerable population through interactive text messaging about the importance of medication adherence and reducing their  unmedicated days. Texts were delivered one week apart and provided members with vital resources like phone numbers of a pharmacy or a member of the HIV care team.

The plan measured results based on whether or not a patient completed a refill within 7 days of initial outreach. The program yielded a 69% improvement in medication refills when SMS text reminders were deployed, indicating that text nudges inspire self-efficacy and action within this vulnerable population. Through targeted, mobile intervention, MetroPlus helped positively impact medication adherence for over 1,000 patients living with HIV.

Notable Outcome 
69% improvement in medication refills with mPulse text reminders

Health Challenges in 2023

The 6 winners of this year’s Activate Awards showed that even when a new barrier is identified with engaging a population, healthcare organizations must adapt to adhere to their consumers’ needs. Whether utilizing a new communication channel, adding streaming video or incorporating multiple languages, the awards demonstrate that providing healthcare consumers with tailored, learning experiences can significantly impact how they engage with a program. 

As the needs and preferences of healthcare consumers continue to evolve, so too should the capabilities of the healthcare organizations that serve them. Next year’s awards ceremony will surely exhibit a new string of engagement challenges with complex populations and niche use cases – let’s see what type of healthcare innovation surfaces in 2023! 

How to Engage and Retain Patients in Clinical Trials

When it comes to clinical trials, the stakes are high. It can take 10 to 15 years or longer to complete all 3 phases before licensing, and global spending on trials is expected to reach nearly $69 billion by 2025.

It’s no secret that patient drop-out is among the leading causes of delays in the timeline and a huge expense. On average, 30% of patients drop out of clinical trials, and the cost to replace a lost patient averages $19,533. The costs of lost data, time, and resources are even higher.

Retaining patients in clinical trials requires a patient-centric approach. By analyzing patient preferences and ensuring these preferences are an integral part of your engagement strategy, you can improve patient engagement in clinical trials.

To understand how to retain patients in clinical trials, we need to take a closer look at why they leave. The biggest culprits are often related to lack of communication and clarity. Often, when patients need help understanding their role, are confused about the trial or process, or are anxious about what to expect during each stage of the trial journey, they’re at a higher risk of dropping out. Unfortunately, patients often feel like subjects rather than an integral part of the research team. Engaging patients by keeping them informed and involved throughout the trial is essential, in addition to communicating with them in the ways they prefer.

The question is: how do people prefer to engage today?

Successful digital strategies for patient retention in clinical trials

We can draw valuable insights from leading digital brands known for their high user engagement to improve patient retention in clinical trials and strengthen patient engagement.

For instance, Amazon’s model of using browsing and purchasing data to provide personalized recommendations can be mirrored to tailor experiences for each patient in clinical trials. Similarly, how social networks like Facebook and Twitter foster connections and content sharing can inspire strategies to facilitate patient connection and communication in clinical trials. Additionally, the personalized content curation model used by streaming giants like Netflix, tailored to individual viewing preferences, can be adapted to create more personalized and engaging experiences for patients. By implementing these proven digital engagement trends and preferences, we can effectively meet patients where they are, engaging them in ways that resonate with their daily digital interactions, thus enhancing how to retain patients in clinical trials and fostering effective patient engagement.

In a perception and insights study conducted by CISCRP

Clinical trial participants were surveyed to uncover clinical trial preferences.

Participants were asked how helpful technology was throughout the clinical trial.

These were the top 3 identified as most helpful:

  1. Text Messaging
  2. Video conferencing as an option to meet with the study doctor
  3. Smartphone apps for study data collection and support services

This study highlights the need to interact with and engage patients digitally. Digital communication enables researchers to scale their time and collect data more efficiently. Using SMS texting to provide patients with timely reminders, check-ins, and updates helps hold patients accountable. It encourages them to adhere to the study’s regime while staying updated on their progress.

mPulse Mobile leverages conversation AI and Natural Language Understanding (NLU)

To send tailored text messages designed to engage and motivate patients over time. Our conversations are empathic, inclusive, and multilingual for equitable health engagement and incorporate behavioral science techniques to empower patients to act. In addition to SMS, we offer IVR and email communication channels. By understanding your patient population, we can further enhance and tailor conversations to feel highly relevant and deliver the right support and information throughout the clinical trial.

In the same perception and insights study conducted by CISCRP, clinical trial participants were asked,

“If you were to participate in a clinical research study, how important are the following to your participation?”

The top 5 areas participants ranked as most important:

  1. Being provided with supporting information on managing my health condition in general
  2. Being provided with supporting information on the clinical research study
  3. Being provided the opportunity to complete a satisfaction survey on your clinical research study experience to provide feedback
  4. Supportive Services
  5. Availability of mobile applications

Providing an online destination for patients to access information about their condition and the study, connect with other patients, complete surveys and questionnaires, ask questions, and receive additional support ticks all the boxes.

mPulse Mobile curates white-labeled learning destinations customized to each patient. We partner with leading health organizations to curate cinematic health content designed to build self-efficacy. Content features various expert-led videos, animations, polls, assessments and surveys, discussion boards, resources, and custom calls to action.

Patients can complete daily diaries, learn more about their condition, and engage with the research team in a single destination. All data is captured on the back end and is available via a real-time dashboard with EDC integration options. Our learning destinations have an average 70-minute engagement time per patient per session and are proven to sustain engagement over time.

mPulse can link patients directly to videos, polls, or diary logs within the learning destination to provide a seamless UX to education, support, and activities. In addition to learning destinations, mPulse offers short-form content that can be sent via email or SMS with customizable CTAs.

How to improve patient retention in clinical trials with mPulse Mobile

mPulse Mobile is at the forefront of enhancing digital engagement in healthcare, offering industry-leading solutions that blend conversational AI with integrated streaming content. Our innovative approach is trusted by over 200 health organizations, personalizing more than 1 billion conversations annually.

mPulse Mobile’s technology is geared towards improving business efficiencies and health outcomes and plays a significant role in retaining patients in clinical trials. We make a difference one person at a time by fostering a more equitable and healthier world.

Discover how mPulse can revolutionize your patient retention strategy in clinical trials by contacting us.

Improving Maternal Health Outcomes with Digital Trends

Despite having a highly advanced healthcare system, the U.S. faces a concerning reality as it records the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths among developed countries. Alarmingly, the maternal mortality rate surged by 40% in 2021 compared to the previous year. While part of this increase can be linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to note that maternal mortality rates were already on an upward trend even before the pandemic struck.

Up to 60% of pregnancy-related deaths and adverse maternal health disparities in the U.S. can be prevented by

Proper preventive and continuity of both prenatal and postpartum care are imperative, and health organizations play a foundational role in improving maternal health disparities for our nation.

In an era where technology is pivotal in improving maternal healthcare outcomes, conversational AI in healthcare emerges as a key player. As the U.S. grapples with rising maternal mortality rates, integrating advanced conversational AI into healthcare strategies offers hope. This innovative technology can significantly improve maternal health outcomes by providing timely, personalized, accessible support to expectant and new mothers.

Our conversational AI solutions are designed to bridge the gaps in maternal healthcare inequalities, offering tailored guidance and vital information that can make a real difference in the lives of women during their pregnancy and postpartum journey.

In this article, we explore the transformative potential of conversational AI in improving maternal health disparities and reducing the alarming rates of pregnancy-related complications in the U.S.

The role of healthcare communication technology

Organizations continually lean on digital trends in an increasingly technology-driven world to drive growth and business efficiencies. 97% of U.S. adults own a mobile phone, and with generative AI platforms such as ChatGTP and social media AI photo filters becoming mainstream, we’re beginning to see the power and potential of healthcare communication technology.

But how does this tie into health organizations and maternal health? 

A lot more than you may think. mPulse Mobile has harnessed innovative technology and digital trends and applied them to the healthcare landscape to educate and empower health consumers to take action. We continually deliver best-in-class health outcomes by borrowing inspiration from the world’s most innovative digital trends. We create highly relevant and engaging digital health solutions experiences through:

  • Technology’s leading trends,
  • in-house learning and design experts, and
  • access to rich data and population insights

Our solution to prenatal and postpartum care leverages this expertise. It tackles the challenges associated with our nation’s poor maternal health outcomes, opening doors to accessibility, catering to care preferences, and building knowledge.

Maximizing mobile outreach with conversational AI to enhance maternal healthcare accessibility

conversational ai example for maternal health resourcesWe know 97% of American adults own a mobile phone, so leveraging this communication channel to reach more consumers is a great place to start. Scaling this resource requires automation, and to avoid abrasion, we lean on conversational AI and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) to direct consumers to the right tools and resources.

Step-by-Step Process to Enhance Maternal Healthcare Accessibility:

  1. Identify Nearby ObGyns and Clinics: Automatically send pregnant members a list of the closest ObGyns and clinics based on their residential location.
  2. Provide Easy Scheduling Options: Include a phone number for members to call and schedule their appointments easily.
  3. Recognize and Respond to Barriers: Utilize Natural Language Understanding (NLU) to detect if a member mentions a lack of access to reliable transportation.
  4. Offer Solutions for Transportation Barriers: In cases where transportation issues are identified, automatically respond with information about available resources that offer low or no-cost transportation options.
  5. Simplify Appointment Setting: Ensure the entire process, from providing information to addressing barriers, is streamlined to facilitate quick and easy appointment scheduling for members.

Addressing maternal health disparities with culturally competent and personalized solutions

conversational ai example relevant and relatable

The disparities in maternal health outcomes and the lack of representation and consideration for consumers who are disadvantaged by our health system are undoubtable and require prioritization. mPulse Mobile is committed to helping reduce maternal health disparities and inequalities by designing our programs to be relevant, relatable and address the needs and preferences of diverse communities.

Our pregnancy solution is culturally competent, with multilingual messaging, NLU tailoring, and inclusive replies and opt-outs (miscarriage opt-out, not saying “pregnant women”). For SDoH-level data, we factor in zip codes to deliver relevant resource links and inclusive visual and streaming content representation. To create a personalized and relevant experience throughout, the member’s due date is used to provide timely information, and custom keys (name, provider name, etc.) further enhance personalization.

How we leverage digital trends for enhanced maternal health education

Information sharing and access to the news today are more broadly available thanks to smart devices and the internet. With Americans spending an average of 1,300 hours each year on social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, it’s critical to derive inspiration from these platforms to maximize engagement and remove friction.

More than 50% of expectant Americans download and use pregnancy-related apps for educational resources and pregnancy-related updates. Health organizations are perfectly positioned to harness these trends and provide a frictionless experience to expectant consumers to engage and deliver the right education and resources, close care gaps, and gather rich population insights.

mPulse Mobile’s prenatal and postpartum solution uses a combination of expert-led videos from Dr. Christine Noa Sterling, board-certified ObGyn, interactive modules, and short stories and animations to educate and empower members around key milestones related to their and their baby’s health.

Content is sent via SMS at key moments based on each consumer’s due date, encouraging them to schedule routine appointments and make healthier choices.

Our in-house behavioral scientists and instructional strategists leverage learning theory and high-quality cinematography and animation to produce content designed to drive action. See for yourself.

Overview of mPulse Mobile’s prenatal and postpartum solution

mPulse’s prenatal and postpartum solution

mPulse Mobile’s pregnancy solution is a 12+ month interactive SMS program designed to improve quality performance and deliver better health outcomes.

The solution specifically targets multiple HEDIS® measures and is proven to engage and deliver outcomes such as a 2X engagement rate with maternity care management services, a 7.1pp increase in the prenatal and postpartum care measure (PPC) owned by NCQA, and 61% engagement across 400,000 Medicaid members. By incorporating our behavior change methodology throughout all conversations and streaming content, our comprehensive approach broadens access, caters to individual preferences, and educates to improve health outcomes at scale.

Poor Healthcare Technology Experiences Erode Consumer Trust. AI Can Repair Relationships.

This article was written by Sanjeev Sawai, Chief Product and Technology Officer at mPulse Mobile, and was originally published on healthcareittoday.com on April 14, 2023.

The expansion and specialization of health networks has made it difficult for most consumers to navigate and advocate for themselves within today’s healthcare organizations.

For the average health consumer, simply identifying in-network providers, requesting a cost estimate, or scheduling a medical test presents a major hassle. Add a chronic condition or difficult diagnosis in the mix and the burden of accessing required care only increases. Over time, unsatisfactory healthcare interactions leave consumers frustrated and burned out, eroding their trust in healthcare organizations’ ability to consistently and reliably provide the care they need. 

But there’s a solution that can minimize the strain on consumers and healthcare organizations: AI.

Advances in AI and machine learning (ML), including ChatGPT, offer key opportunities for healthcare organizations to decrease administrative hurdles, enhance communication, and ultimately build stronger relationships with consumers. However, to deliver frictionless, personalized interactions, these tools require organizations to unify historically siloed technology platforms and data on the backend — factors that are often the root cause of consumers’ ongoing frustrations.

Applied at scale, AI tools ensure consumers can access the care they need — and enable healthcare organizations to provide exceptional service that earns consumers’ long-term trust.

Disparate Data Challenges Faster AI Adoption

To work effectively, AI tools require access to data capable of providing a holistic view of individual healthcare consumers. But centralizing data from core systems (including EHRs, CMSs, patient portals, and billing systems) is a difficult, time-consuming task. These efforts are often underfunded by healthcare organizations, resulting in delays that hamper innovation, including AI adoption.

As a result, interoperability ranks among the top three obstacles to innovation, according to healthcare executives and leaders — with many healthcare organizations still struggling to build infrastructure that enables their technology platforms to easily share information. By 2025, less than 30% of healthcare organizations plan to invest in the infrastructure (specifically data activation platforms and data lakes) necessary to achieve full interoperability.

Until foundational interoperability work is complete, healthcare organizations will settle for individual point solutions rather than comprehensive AI solutions capable of creating cohesive consumer experiences across all touchpoints. 

The good news is many healthcare organizations already recognize the importance of dismantling entrenched digital fragmentation as a first step toward strengthening cybersecurity and exploring emerging cloud opportunities.Tapping into the benefits of consumer-centric AI tools presents another compelling incentive to fast track digital transformation and redirect resources toward more robust data management solutions.

How AI Builds Trust in Healthcare Organizations

When it’s integrated horizontally across your operations, consumers won’t necessarily realize they’re interacting with AI. It simply becomes an unobtrusive tool that improves access to information and services — strengthening consumer trust one frictionless interaction at a time.

Let’s take a closer look at two key benefits of a seamlessly integrated AI solution:

Cohesion Across Touchpoints

The demand for digital healthcare has exploded over the past few years — and consumers’ expectations for frictionless digital interactions have risen alongside it. But it’s difficult to meet every consumer’s desire for instant, personalized support with people-power alone.

AI-assisted chat capabilities help consumers access relevant medical and administrative information and perform simple tasks, like scheduling an appointment or refilling a prescription, around the clock. Likewise, AI tools can unify disparate operations centers by providing your organization with a single command center. Consumers are never left scouring multiple websites and apps for the information or contact point they’re seeking. Instead, they encounter consistent details no matter where they turn — whether online or in person.

Personalized and Positive Consumer Interactions

Nothing feels more impersonal to a consumer than repeatedly providing information to customer service agents who eventually redirect them to yet another siloed department. People want to be treated as humans, not numbers — especially in such a personal and stressful context as healthcare.

Paradoxically, AI can humanize your organization by offering personalized, useful interactions that drive engagement — and ultimately trust. By integrating insights from consumer data analytics and principles of behavioral science, AI tools enhance day-to-day engagements with consumers and better cater to their unique needs. This could go beyond administrative functions to include automated prompts or tailored text communications about preventive health measures or chronic illness management. For example, a two-way SMS messaging tool powered by AI could remind a consumer that it’s flu season, offer an easy prompt for scheduling an upcoming vaccination appointment, and provide educational resources encouraging vaccination based on a patient’s responses.

AI capabilities are poised to revolutionize the healthcare consumer experience, reducing administrative obstacles and improving communication between providers and patients. But to make AI deployments as effective as possible, your organization must first synthesize siloed technology platforms and data sources to establish a holistic, reliable view of all consumers across all operations centers. This reorchestration requires an initial IT investment, but the potential efficiency gains are enormous. And so are the benefits for consumers.

When implemented effectively at scale, AI tools make it easier for consumers to access healthcare — the first step in fostering a relationship of trust between consumers and their healthcare organizations.

About Sanjeev Sawai

Sanjeev Sawai, Chief Product and Technology Officer at mPulse Mobile, has a passion for building innovative software products. For the last decade and a half, he has led product and technology teams to deliver market-leading products. mPulse is a confluence of Sanjeev’s recent experience in healthcare, and a dozen years of past work in conversational AI and speech applications. Sanjeev has brought to market enterprise grade and SaaS-scale software products in a variety of markets, most notably telecommunications, financial services and healthcare. He has led the development of market-leading products in the voice solutions market and built embedded systems for defense applications. Previously, Sanjeev has held leadership positions in product development at HealthEdge, Altisource, Interactions, Envox, and Brooktrout.

Improving the Patient Experience: Solving the Top Four Healthcare Challenges 

Patients are currently going through a transformation in the healthcare system. They are less like the patients we’ve always known them to be and are starting to act more like consumers. And what is the primary trait of a consumer? Choice.

Patients today are fully fledged, active participants in their own healthcare and are making choices between different services and providers the way they make choices between brands. This changing dynamic requires that the healthcare system makes that shift right along with them. The goal of physicians, health systems, and accountable care organizations should be to ensure the patient’s experience is personalized, relevant, and on par with what they have come to expect from consumer experiences in all areas of their life. There are, however, some common challenges that we see healthcare organizations grappling with while moving toward this new normal, which can only be solved with the right mix of expertise and technology. But they can be solved for—with the result being a more valuable patient experience and relationship.

HealthCare is Challenging 

It is. And these challenges are pervasive across many organizations we work with. We’re talking about gaps in Data, Technology Capabilities, Engagement Strategy, and Organizational Alignment. 

Let’s dive into each one.

Data Gaps 

Do you have the right cell phone number? Do you know if the number you have is even for a cell phone? Is it a land line instead? Do you have the correct contact preferences? Do you have information on their social determinants of health (SDoH) and the barriers to care they’re facing? This data can make all the difference when outreaching to patients and attempting to drive them to a specific action. How can you reach out to someone if you don’t have the right number? How can you affect someone’s behavior if you don’t understand their circumstances?

Solving for Data Gaps 

In all aspects of your outreach, you need to be data driven. This starts with the ability to collect and harness your data. An SDoH Index like mPulse Mobile has is the kind of data that allows you to tailor conversations to a person’s circumstances. Specific capabilities, such as two-way automated conversations, allows us to understand what people are doing and why they’re doing it. By being able to ask people directly and receive an answer, we can take that information, record it as data, and do analysis on it to identify trends. The most valuable insights you can have will come directly from your patients themselves. Of course, this can only be done at scale with the right technology.

Technology Capability Gaps 

Having all the data in the world is little help if you don’t have the technology to use it at scale. You might be deploying one way messaging programs, which means you aren’t collecting information back from your patients to help personalize the conversation and further improve your interactions with themand forget trying to do this on a 1:1 basis without the ability for your technology to automate these conversations.

Solving for Technology Capability Gaps 

Conversational AI and Natural Language Understanding are two important foundational capabilities that can help close this gap. Conversational AI ensures you can tailor your conversation to the individual you’re speaking with, making it more likely you’ll connect with them and drive the desired action. With National language understanding, we can communicate with patients in a way that feels familiar, conversational, and natural. You get at the intent of what your patient is saying and account for humanness (such as typos or slang). At mPulse, we have linguists and computer programmers on staff who work together to come up with scripting that can interpret different combinations of languages, typos, and slang to get to the intention.

Gaps in Engagement Strategy 

Maybe you do have the means to connect with your patients with two-way automated conversations. But are you saying the right things? Are your engagements tailored and optimized to ensure maximum outcomes? How often are you messaging? What’s the tone? Do you have a team dedicated to refining all these different aspects of your strategy?

Solving for Gaps in Engagement Strategy

When you understand how people think and make decisions, you can craft your outreach in a way that predicts their response and uses that prediction to nudge them in the direction you’d like. This is the reasoning behind the behavioral science techniques we bake into our solutions. Humans are fairly predictable, and we mostly react the same. Let’s use that predictability to push them toward healthy behaviors! Many behavioral science techniques are used to build our programs: cognitive overload could determine the pacing of our program; authority bias may dictate who we have giving the information; and storytelling effect could dictations how we give the information;

Don’t know what these behavioral science techniques are? Watch our on-demand behavioral science webinar series to learn how they can transform your engagement strategy! »

Gaps in Organizational Alignment 

Your patient has gotten your messaging, they’ve made the appointment. Now, are you guiding them through transition of care in the most effective way possible? For example, ensuring they’re scheduling an appointment with a PCP after an ER visit.

Solving for Gaps in Organizational Alignment 

The goal is to produce trust-building patient experiences consistent across the entire experience with a brand. For this, we have enterprise engagement, which allows us to handle the scale necessary for organizations which can have 100,000+ patients.

We need experiences consistent across that member base while also personalized to match each individual’s needs. That’s a tall order. And this comes back full circle to data and technologyboth are needed to ensure this patient experience is protected.

The New Normal

Digital trends are changing the game. Patient expectations are changing the game. The choices they have and the experiences in everyday life they’ve grown used to are creating new rules of the road in healthcare. As it should. We have technology in the market today that allows these experiences to be exceptional, so why should they (and we) settle for anything less? 

Health Equity, Part 1: How Can Digital Engagement and Conversational AI Promote Health Equity?

When COVID-19 overwhelmed our nation’s healthcare system, a stark reality emerged: health inequity. As people of color experienced a disproportionately high burden of COVID-19 cases and deaths, highlighting a gap in our system, the topic of health equity surfaced across public health agencies, policy makers, healthcare systems and providers, and employers alike, and the possibility of digital health solutions bridging these gaps and make quality healthcare more accessible came to the forefront. 

To promote health equity, it is vital to begin with a universal definition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines health equity as “the state in which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain the highest level of health.” Achieving this aspiration requires uplifting communities that have been minoritized and excluded and promoting affordability and accessibility to quality healthcare and other social services. First, let’s start by looking at equity and how it is different from equality.

Equality vs. Equity: The Road is Long 

While these terms may sound similar, equality and equity are not synonymous! Creating equitable solutions over equal solutions has the profound impact to uplift marginalized populations. 

Imagine that you must go five miles down the road. In an equal society, everyone who needed to travel this distance would be given the same bicycle. What determines who makes it down the road and who makes it quickest?

  • Personal conditions, such as their biking skills, what they are carrying, and whether they have the ability to pedal with their feet.
  • Circumstances of the environment such as whether the road is bumpy, inclined, or flat.

In an equal society, while everyone may have a bicycle, they are not truly equipped with the resources they need to succeed

In contrast, in an equitable society, everyone is set up to reach the end of the five miles at the same exact time, regardless of conditions. In a scenario of equity, each person has a bicycle that has been developed for their unique needs, such as a motorized vehicle for wheelchair users or a bicycle with more traction to endure the bumpy roads.

Visualizing Health Equity: One Size Does Not Fit All Infographic
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2022

When it comes to healthcare, the same logic follows: a uniform approach will not work across populations. True health equity will require providing each member with the tools they need to overcome barriers and ultimately achieve their highest level of health. There are a few key digital engagement strategies that can be especially effective in addressing health inequities among member populations. 

Streaming Health Content

diabetes eye exam streaming health content in SpanishHealth illiteracy is one of the biggest barriers to equitable healthcare, and in response, streaming health content is an effective method for health literacy promotion. It borrows from the best of digital content strategy, behavioral science, and instructional design to create powerful learning experiences to address health literacy barriers in a consumer-friendly format and to encourage hard to reach members to take control of their health outcomes. Instead of telling people what they need to do, we are educating them on why it’s important, which serves to develop intrinsic motivation to get care and take healthy actions. Everyone has the knowledge needed and everyone can make health decisions with all the information available.

Interested in learning more about our approach to health literacy? Register for Activate2023: Designing Customer Journeys for Health Equity »

Conversational AI and Natural Language Understanding

With the use of artificial intelligence, conversations can be programmed to understand responses in any language and intelligently respond in that same language. It can also allow plans to respond automatically to barriers created by inequitable circumstances, such as transportation, cost, or health literacy issues. Then it can provide real time solutions to move the member forward toward the desired action. This serves to create more equitable health experiences for those members who aren’t starting on a level playing field.

Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) 

Research shows SDoH have a greater impact on health and well-being than medical care. This is because where a person lives, learns, works, and plays can affect their health in many ways. There are many non-medical factors that affect health and wellness:

  • Economic Stability: employment, income, expenses, debt, medical bills, and support 
  • Physical Environment: housing, transportation, safety, parks, playgrounds, walkability Education: literacy, language, vocational training, pre-schools, higher education 
  • Food: hunger, access to healthy, affordable options 
  • Community: social support systems, community engagement, discrimination, stress 
  • Healthcare System: health coverage, provider access, provider cultural competency, quality of care

These factors commonly overlap to affect health outcomes (health status, mortality, and morbidity).

Technology can bridge the gap created by SDoH. At mPulse mobile, we believe SDoH can be addressed directly using disaggregated data, which ensures representation of marginalized populations. We created a proprietary SDoH Index which leverages a weighting system to maximize its predictive ability. Factors such as food insecurity, transportation access, neighborhood, and environment are taken into account for each individual member to provide a more tailored, relevant, and empathetic conversation.

Bridging Gaps: Our Commitment to Equitable Health

Digital interventions can also be a powerful tool to bring communities together during a crisis (such as quick response to the COVID-19 pandemic), spread education, send interventions in multiple languages, and find different ways to get people the resources they need.

The digital platform can be used to spread health education in engaging ways (e.g. videos, courses), utilizes behavior science to break down fears and misinformation, and uses a multicultural lens to provide multiple languages and ensure cultural sensitivity. Together, this technology can bridge inequities early on, and in turn, can help mitigate preventable, deadly health consequences. 

Ultimately, we aim to close gaps in care and eliminate preventable health disparities by integrating health equity competencies across all of our work, and allow all people a fair and just opportunity for the highest level of health.

To learn more about the impact digital engagement can have on health equity, read part 2 of this blog series next.