Before there was Gretel Trails, the new “insights engine” and chatbot from JPA Health, there was Gretel, the database that the agency built and unveiled in 2018. It was no small endeavor, to put it mildly.

Here’s what JPA EVP and head of research Ken Deutsch has to say when asked about its evolution. “You have this huge map of about 150,000 individuals and organizations, and then you zoom in on who are the most important. From that we do a citation analysis on where they’re getting their information from and a follower analysis of whom pays attention to whom and how information flows. Then we break down the individual dots or players — the nodes on the network — to find commonalities based on who they pay attention to.”

On some level, Gretel Trails simply replaces who dives into the Gretel database and starts looking for information by tracing its webs of connections. In the past, that task would fall to Deutsch, members of account teams or some “geeky clients” (to use Deutsch’s words). Now the power is handed over to anyone with access to Gretel Trails.

As part of a demonstration, Deutsch asked Gretel Trails for talking points for a speech about an alternative medicine, designed for an audience that is skeptical of such treatments. The result, which arrived a second later, was a bulleted list with potentially persuasive approaches and language that could resonate with physicians.

“From a communications and marketing standpoint, it does everything,” he said. “But it’s just like any article you write. You can’t submit it without someone editing it, looking it over and making sure it’s correct.”

Deutsch also lauded Gretel Trails for its ability to propose basic strategies and approaches — to provide a potential roadmap for a marketing campaign, for example.

“One of the things we always do as an agency when we start off on a new project is a brainstorm — sometimes with the client, depending on the assignment,” he explained. “In the past, we’d come to those meetings with research, but now we’ve introduced Gretel Trails to the conversation. It gives us an instant way to test to see whether or not a topic is being written and talked about in a way that’s going to resonate with target audiences.”

As ChatGPT and other AI tools have surged in popularity and awareness, one unfortunate reality has emerged. Given how the tools operate — they sweep existing data looking for connections and themes — their answers often reflect social biases. Deutsch believes that Gretel Trails has avoided that pitfall.

“We’ve done a lot of research looking at the language being used by the different groups, so that we make sure messaging reaches them,” he explained. “That’s baked into Gretel. You’ve got to be sure that whatever you are doing, you are capturing all the audiences.”

In the realm of healthcare marketing, Deutsch is bullish on Gretel Trails specifically and the possibility of AI broadly If it can handle some of the legwork, then healthcare solutions will get to market that much faster.

That said, Deutsch is careful to sound a note of caution for what lies ahead.

“The danger is that people get so dependent on the technology that they believe everything it says, and they’ll start doing things that are not necessarily in their best interest or their client’s best interest,” he warned. “We have to be completely vigilant about that at all times.”