Technology Record - Issue 32: Spring 2024

131 AI is also pivotal in helping to facilitate equitable access to public health resources for everyone in the community. For example, Japanese firm Aisin has used multiple Azure AI solutions to develop a speech-to-text tool that helps people with hearing difficulties to communicate with others. Meanwhile in India, government-backed research group AI4Bharat has developed a generative AI-driven chatbot named Jugalbandi to break the language barriers preventing most of the population from accessing multiple government assistance programmes. Now, citizens can send a text or audio message to Jugalbandi via WhatsApp, which uses tools including Azure OpenAI Service to retrieve information on relevant government schemes and relay it back to the citizen in their own language. “AI bridges the digital divide by helping organisations to adapt service delivery to suit the individual needs of every end-user,” says Lightfoot. “For example, AI can automatically convert a website with complex text into a more easily digestible format, such as audio, to make it accessible for a person living with a disability.” Prioritising people with coordinated care Implementing technologies such as AI, automation and the cloud is helping health and social care providers to achieve a longheld aspiration: deliver coordinated, humancentric care. “Care is often supplied in silos that represent the agencies and community service providers delivering the services,” says Lightfoot. “By putting the client at the centre and revolving the services around them, we can dramatically improve both the efficiency of delivering services and the citizen experience. AI can then proactively engage service providers to help bring the right service at the right time.” Multi-agency collaboration is a key enabler in delivering person-centred care, helping organisations to understand how the social determinants of health (non-medical factors that influence health outcomes) could impact the type of care a person needs. “People often have coincident needs – for example, someone who lives in poor housing is more likely to need medical assistance and help with food and utilities,” says Pitman. “Rather than trying to solve a single challenge for an individual, it’s more effective to look at their situation holistically and try to identify and resolve the root cause of all the problems. Technology enables us to do this by allowing real-time data sharing between all the agencies involved in delivering care to individuals.” Aberdeen City Council in Scotland, UK, has deployed Dynamics 365 Customer Service to enable social workers to rapidly assess vulnerable citizens’ individual needs, coordinate with police officers and medical practitioners to develop a care plan, and leverage municipal aid to keep them safe and healthy. Individuals’ data is stored on a central database to provide all involved stakeholders with a unified overview of their needs, care history and more. Social workers can now assemble care reports within minutes, saving more than £2 million ($2.5 million) in labour costs per year and cutting the average handling time for a single case by 218 minutes. This has resulted in over 11,500 new referrals and 3,000 extra assessments being processed each year. Prevention is better than the cure Having a joined-up system and holistic overview of every vulnerable individual will enable the sector to evolve from a reactive to a preventative health and social care model. “The holy grail is for these organisations to be able to predict who is most at risk of falling victim to homelessness, domestic abuse, medical issues and more, so they can take proactive steps to intervene at an early stage,” says McKenzie-Jones. “This enables organisations to provide every individual with the right support at the right time, all while reducing costs and decreasing the burden on employees who can work more productively and focus on doing what they love most – helping people.” PUBLIC SECTOR “ AI bridges the digital divide by helping organisations to adapt service delivery to suit the individual needs of every end-user” BRETT LIGHTFOOT, MICROSOFT