Nevada agencies eye artificial intelligence to speed up unemployment claims, DMV inquiries

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Four years after the pandemic overwhelmed Nevada's unemployment insurance system, the state's employment agency still has more than 10,000 pending appeals, and about 1,500 of them date back to the pandemic.

But this summer, agency officials are hoping to dramatically speed up the appeals process with a new tool: artificial intelligence.

In July, the Nevada Board of Examiners — a panel made up of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state — is set to approve an agreement for the state to begin using Google's AI technology to help reduce unemployment, Christopher said. How to process appeals for benefits, Christopher said. Seville, Director of the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR).

Under the arrangement, a transcription of the virtual appeals hearing will be transmitted to AI servers powered by Google that are aware of the state's unemployment appeals policies. The AI ​​will then issue an order on the appeal and send the decision to the state employee, who will check the technology's functioning and ensure that the decision was correct.

Under DETR's current process, an employee will review the hearing and issue a written report based on state policies. Carl Steinfeld, DETR's information technology administrator, said the process takes an average of three hours to complete, while AI technology can issue a decision within five minutes.

“The time savings is phenomenal,” Steinfeld said.

Artificial intelligence — defined as a machine-based system that can make decisions, predictions or recommendations — is still in its infancy in Nevada state government, but some agencies are looking to streamline processes and improve services. It has started using emerging technology to make it user-friendly, officials said. .

The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, the agency that runs the state's online health insurance marketplace, began using a virtual AI agent last November to handle more basic questions over the phone, giving employees more complex user experience. can be freed up to resolve queries and reduce waiting times. The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has also been using an AI-powered chatbot to answer user questions since 2022, and plans to unveil more advanced chatbots in the future.

AI has taken off over the past few years, especially with the advent of tools like ChatGPT. Across the country, governments have used the technology for a wide range of purposes, including bill drafting, customer and worker assistance, transcription, translation, processing unemployment claims and traffic monitoring. Some states, including Nevada, have enacted AI-related policies or created new bodies specifically designed to regulate AI.

But the tools have also come with legislative concerns.

In the past two months, two interim legislative committees have held hearings on the use of AI in government. Some lawmakers appeared wary of the technology, particularly about its overpowering nature, as well as who would be responsible if the technology malfunctioned.

Sen. Skip Daley (D-Reno) spoke specifically on this topic, saying, “Are we out of our ever-loving minds?” After a presentation on how other state legislatures use AI.

In an interview, Daley acknowledged that AI is here to stay and that it could have uses to improve government efficiency, but he stressed that the state should take a cautious approach, as AI is a part of state rhetoric. Prohibit copying.

“I'm just skeptical of the whole concept of over-reliance on algorithms and computers,” he said. “I hope we'll be careful about it, and think before we just say 'we've got to be faster or better than the next guy'.”

Senator Skip Daley during a joint meeting of the Assembly and Senate Committees on Legislative Action and Elections during the 82nd legislative session in Carson City on February 14. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Nevada's Office of the Chief Information Officer is responsible for overseeing the use of AI in state agencies. The office reviews the agency's proposals for AI in a process similar to that already used to approve major technology projects.

In November, the office issued guidance on agency use of AI that said the tools must comply with all data privacy laws, take strict measures to limit access to AI tools and use data in AI technology. must be encrypted. The memo also states that non-state-run AI tools should be used “with extreme caution.”

Timothy Gallozzi, Nevada's chief information officer, said a more comprehensive policy is also in the works, although a completion date is unknown. The Indie. The policy will result from consultations with the private sector, higher education institutions and the non-partisan Gain Center, as well as a review of other states' AI policies.

“Our goal here is to walk a really fine line, where we're protecting state data and infrastructure while still allowing for the innovative use of these technologies to make state government more efficient and effective,” Gallozzi said. “There are so many opportunities that these tools can bring us, but those opportunities don't come without their fair share of risks.”

While only a few agencies have taken steps to integrate AI into their day-to-day operations, state officials emphasized that the technology will ensure more widespread adoption across state governments.

During a late May meeting of the Joint Interim Standing Committee on Governmental Affairs, leaders of the Office of the Chief Information Officer (which is located in the governor's office) called on lawmakers to ensure the implementation of AI-related policies. Provide ongoing support and funding to build Effectively

“It's going to be a very hot topic,” Gallozzi said.

Other uses of AI

The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange unveiled a virtual AI agent at the launch of open enrollment last November. It was the first state-level health agency to receive approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to use an AI chatbot.

The agency contracts with a call center that typically receives two types of inquiries: basic questions (which may be related to account access) and more complex questions, such as those addressing program eligibility. Those who may need supporting documentation, said the agency's Russell Cook. Executive Director.

A virtual AI agent is able to help callers with basic questions, such as contacting an insurance agent, allowing employees to focus on more complex inquiries. The agency's quality assurance team also reviews virtual agent interactions and can report issues to the vendor.

Virtual agents addressed 15 percent of calls during the open enrollment period. In the first four months that the virtual agent was active, the average customer's wait time fell 20 percent from last year, while conversation length increased 30 percent, which Cook said was likely due to fewer employees. were taking basic calls.

Cook said the virtual agent is especially helpful in helping callers outside of business hours.

“We're really looking at AI primarily as a supplemental offering to our call center agents, not meant to replace customer service, but more responsive to customers with basic needs,” Cook said. The goal is to provide customer service.”

The agency is also piloting two other AI initiatives: one to be able to process documents automatically and another to be able to use a chatbot to answer basic procedural questions for employees.

Three other initiatives are in the works, including a bot that will automatically listen and score all call center interactions to track employee performance. The agency is also building a technology robot to make policy documents searchable and update them with new federal guidelines if necessary, as well as an interface to answer policy-related questions from employees.

Department of Motor Vehicles staff assist customers at the Henderson office on Tuesday, January 2, 2018. (Jeff Shade/The Nevada Independent)

The Nevada DMV has used a chatbot powered by Salesforce since December 2022. The feature allows users to ask questions about anything from scheduling appointments to registering vehicles, and the bot can provide answers or link users to web pages on the topic.

The DMV is also working to release a more advanced chatbot that will be similar to platforms like ChatGPT, a spokesperson said. The feature will use generative AI – which can mimic human abilities to produce original content – and will be further tested as it becomes more advanced. The agency is conducting extensive “stress testing” to test the bot and ensure it won't provide false information.

Saywell, director of the state employment agency, admitted he was hesitant to use AI for unemployment appeal processing before the debate began last summer.

“Was there some sleepless nights after this decision? Of course, because it is a new technology,” Sewell said. “But it's going to work, and it's going to work the way we want it to.”

He urged policymakers not to be too “rigid” when it comes to AI policies and hoped the agency would continue to use AI in the future, such as in call centers and to help people find jobs. of the.

“This is our first round with AI,” he said, “but it won't be our last.”

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