John Carnett
John Carnett

“Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time.” — Bill Gates

The promise that Bill Gates references is true across many areas of our lives, but it rings exceedingly true in the healthcare field, where those promises can have a deep impact in an individual’s life.

Technology is undoubtedly shaping the healthcare landscape, promising a better future and a longer lifespan in an unimaginably short timeframe. Just this year, we’ve seen the development of Internet of Medical Things devices that allow doctors and patients to compile data from multiple sources to get a holistic picture of an individual’s health. We have witnessed a startup who leverages blockchain technology and tokens, in conjunction with gamification, to reduce opioid use and aid in the prevention of opioid addiction. Artificial Intelligence has also played a big role in the advancement of healthcare, streamlining everything from nurse staffing to aiding in clinical judgement or diagnosis.

With technology advancing so rapidly, many may feel uncomfortable or even afraid of the innovation. A 2015 study by researchers at Chapman University determined that Americans were more afraid of technology than they were of death. This fear is referred to as technophobia and is surprisingly common. In fact, some experts believe we all suffer at least a small amount of nervousness when confronted with new technology.

As PR practitioners in the healthcare field, it’s our job to communicate the benefits of innovation and reduce the fears that many consumers may feel about the change. One of the best ways to do this is, surprisingly, by leveraging that technology as it can be used to rapidly communicate a desired message to your audience while also normalizing the use of technology. The advancements in technology, specifically AI, should be heavily considered for inclusion when developing your communication strategy.

AI advancements in communication

AI makes leaps and bounds every year, becoming more independent, more efficient and more … human. California recently changed the law that required driverless cars to have a safety driver, making autonomous driving more common and anyone that watched the Google IO this year and witnessed the Duplex demo can be fully convinced that spam calls will be even worse in the coming years. Apart from the apparent creepiness of AI, there are many tools that AI delivers that can make our communications roles more efficient.

Looking at internal and external communication, AI alongside machine learning have been making an impact across a wide variety of industries. AI can automatically write financial reports on demand and deliver these reports to stakeholders, provide summaries of important daily communications, enable faster and more accurate internal information searches and even enable faster responses to crises. Most of these tools rely on data, but AI is also advancing beyond data analysis and moving rapidly into data generation, as AI “brains” are starting to utilize the human senses of touch, sight, and sound for automation. An example of this is a platform we are working on that can use sight to identify audience segments on an individual basis and deliver segment appropriate ads. The emotional recognition of the platform then has the ability to identify individual reactions and shift to more effective advertising.

For PR practitioners, AI can be used as a tool to add efficiencies and allow you to focus on what you do best: creativity and relationships. These tools range from creating media lists, arranging meetings, and even writing standard follow up emails. AI, via chatbots, can also aid you with online customer support. In several industries, including health, chatbots are already providing this service. Because these AI powered machines have access to millions of customer-centered data points, and can utilize this data more efficiently, their ability to answer customer questions can oftentimes outshine their human counterparts.

Leveraging AI and chatbots for healthcare communications

A great example of how to leverage chatbots in the healthcare field comes from the government and their plans for the SmokefreeUS Facebook Messenger campaign. Before the introduction of chatbots, there was never a good, scalable way for the Smokefree team to interact with their community on Facebook Messenger. Their team has since developed two great use cases: the first was to provide their community with tips on how to stop cravings and the second was to provide their community with “slip support.”

At a time when customers expect increasingly meaningful experiences, the personalization and customization of communication is key, and AI tools can provide support in this effort. In a 2017 survey by Evergage, when asked about the benefits of AI-powered personalization, 63 percent of respondents mentioned increased conversion rates and 61 percent noted improved customer experiences. The Smokefree team developed questions to aid in delivering personalized help to their community. These questions included: Do you need information on how this works? Did you smoke today? Are you battling a craving and want support? Do you want more information about how to quit? With these questions, the Smokefree team can provide the exact support the individual needs.

Libby Larsen once said, “The great myth of our times is that technology is communication.” While most PR practitioners agree that technology can never supplant personal communication, it can be a great tool to enhance it. And with a growing online community, there’s no reasonable way a strictly human team can provide this level of 24-hour individualized communication.


John Carnett leads Marketing Maven’s quest for futuristic technology to develop new communications offerings out their Los Angeles office. He can be reached at [email protected].