- New Mexico uses an AI-driven chatbot to help process newborns into the Medicaid system.
- Its experience could help point the way to how AI will change workforces everywhere.
- The state employs 30 “digital workers” to tackle repetitive tasks — freeing staff for bigger things.
How will artificial intelligence change workplaces as we know them? New Mexico’s experience might point the way after it’s already used AI for years — turning one process that used to take up to a month into a 10-minute task.
That kind of time-saving multiplied across an entire company — or even an entire economy — offers a small glimpse into the scale of change AI could bring.
Take, for example, when a child is born in Santa Fe or Albuquerque: a complex bureaucratic machinery goes into action.
Here’s how it used to work: Workers at hospitals would enroll qualified newborns into Medicaid. They would slog through paperwork to do so, physically filling out forms, and then mailing or faxing them over to New Mexico administrators. Then state caseworkers would painstakingly enter the information into a database. The process could take up to a month.
But since 2020, the state’s Human Services Department has pushed into the brave new world of AI: Working with vendors including IBM and SS&C Blue Prism, the state automated the process. So now, when a child is born, their information can be quickly registered by a human using an AI-powered chatbot and then automatically ported over to the state’s database. It takes about 10 minutes.
The process, nicknamed “baby bot,” is deployed at 10 hospital organizations in New Mexico and in border states like Texas and Arizona. (New Mexico residents who qualify for Medicaid coverage in the state — and who live in rural areas close to the border — can get health care services in those neighboring states.) A number of birthing centers, Indian Health Service clinics, and Indian Health Service hospitals also use the “baby bot” process.
And it’s just one of several tasks now performed by some 30 “digital workers” the state now uses. Together, the bots and automation are expected to save more than 100,000 human worker hours each year, the New Mexico Human Services Department told Insider.
So far, the state says those time savings haven’t led to job cuts: It’s just that human employees now aren’t bogged down by as many busywork administrative tasks, and can instead turn their attention to bigger-picture things. And AI could end up creating some new jobs as the state looks to hire developers and other tech-savvy workers to help program and lead the AI projects.
The New Mexico Human Services Department has also been expanding its use of automation into other areas. This year, it added a new process to index returned mail — and will look to incorporate technology that functions like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, said Shanita Harrison, the customer innovation director for the department.
“I think ChatGPT is cool and opens your mind to what the possibilities are,” Harrison said. “We can strive to get to something that is as automated as ChatGPT. We just have to find the right use for it in the human services realm.”
New Mexico of course isn’t alone. ChatGPT and other generative AI tools are capturing the public consciousness and are drawing attention to ways that companies and government agencies have already been using AI tools to streamline communication and speed up tasks.
In New Mexico, “digital workers” are programmed to execute a range of tasks and are assigned times in which to complete them. But contract workers — humans — program the bots. The state is now looking to hire full-time app developers to join the agency to perform those roles, Harrison said.
“We haven’t lessened our budgeted full-time employees because of the automation,” she said. “We’re here to serve New Mexico’s residents, and we know that takes a personal touch.”
New Mexico’s vendors include a number of tech companies, including IBM, whose Watson Assistant provides the AI for the “baby bot” process, as well as Salesforce, and SS&C Blue Prism.
Blue Prism’s technology helps take the information from the bot interaction and port it to the state’s eligibility system. The process, known as robotic process automation, helps speed up structured, repetitive tasks, said Brad Hairston of SS&C Blue Prism.
“Companies have needed to automate more and more complex processes — they’ve needed digital workers to read invoices, or they need the digital workers to be able to work off of a prediction, or detect a pattern in the business of some sort,” he said. A representative for IBM declined to comment.
Meanwhile, New Mexico also uses another process it calls the “brainy bot” to answer questions by residents enrolled in various state benefits programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to help low-income people buy groceries.
Users can ask the bot questions specific to their case, like, “When is my SNAP renewal date?” Or they can pose general questions like, “I need help with energy assistance,” Harrison said. The “brainy bot” process also uses IBM AI technology, and it’s run on a Salesforce platform, she said.
Human workers are still key to administering the state’s services, she said, as they’re the ones who often interact with residents to help address more complex inquiries.
“If you run into trouble, and the AI is not figuring out what you want, it will connect you with a live agent,” she said.