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How Valley Behavioral Health uses Slack in a regulated industry

Group collaboration instruments have change into common in a wide range of sectors lately, changing e-mail with group chat “channels” for real-time communication. For Valley Behavioral Well being, that is meant utilizing Slack to enhance the circulate of data between staffers whereas guaranteeing that affected person knowledge stays protected.

Though it is largely a Microsoft store, the Utah-based psychological well being providers supplier makes use of Slack’s Enterprise Grid for inside communications amongst its 750 staff, connecting medical doctors, therapists, social staff and different employees members.

Valley Behavioral Well being has channels for care coordination and a broad vary of different functions, from HR-related queries to property administration points (customers can add a photograph of defective gear in workplace buildings, for instance) to IT ticket submission. There’s additionally a  “normal” channel permits for casual conversations between colleagues.  

“It is an actual hub of communication round our whole enterprise,” stated Valley Behavioral Well being CIO Tyler Tait in a current interview.

Securing affected person info

As a corporation working in a extremely regulated space — healthcare — Valley Behavioral Well being should handle protected well being info (PHI) despatched by employees that use a digital communication platform.

Though not initially geared toward regulated industries, Slack’s Enterprise Grid — introduced in 2018 — may be configured for compliance with the Well being Insurance coverage Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), due to the addition of encryption and knowledge safety capabilities.

With Enterprise Grid, Valley Behavioral Well being’s PHI knowledge is encrypted at relaxation and in transit on Slack’s servers and may be saved by itself encrypted drives. For audit functions, it’s potential see what PHI was shared, with whom, and when.  

There have been sensible benefits for employees. HIPAA compliance allowed Valley Behavioral Well being staff to ship messages containing PHI info in sure channels, enabling sooner communication throughout the group, stated Tait. For instance, he pointed to folks who routinely decide up their baby from Valley Behavioral Well being’s college for youngsters with autism. When employees are knowledgeable of a dad or mum’s arrival, the chat message containing the identify of their baby could possibly be thought of delicate affected person knowledge.

Tyler Tait Valley Behavioral Well being

Valley Behavioral Well being CIO Tyler Tait.

“They want to have the ability to say which baby — you may’t simply say the consumer ID,” Tait stated. “We have been in a position to make it more practical: it was a better, rapid means for them to speak.” 

Even so, Valley Behavioral Well being warns its employees to keep away from sharing PHI over Slack except vital, with PHI not allowed within the “normal” channel, for example.

“It was enormous for us to have the ability to permit of us to have the ability to put PHI into Slack; that is been nice for the precise instances and use instances the place it has been vital. However the backside line is that we inform of us, ‘When you need not share any affected person info in Slack, then do not,’” he stated. As a substitute, PHI is shared in small personal teams or direct messages between people, the place acceptable.

There are different methods Valley Behavioral Well being protects affected person info. It retains third-party integrations to a minimal to cut back the danger of information being moved to exterior suppliers. It has additionally opted towards integrating Slack with its digital medical data (EMR) system, to maintain affected person knowledge separate from the collaboration platform.

“Slack is a communication software to maintain folks engaged: it is rapid, it is fully updated, and it retains everyone ‘within the know,’” he stated. “I would not essentially consider it as a file or knowledge repository for info, although it’s HIPAA-compliant.”

Whereas group collaboration instruments are usually not broadly utilized in healthcare, stated Seth Feder, senior director analyst for healthcare at Gartner, curiosity is rising. That is a mirrored image, partially, of the broader maturity of well being IT environments following the widespread adoption of EMR methods over the previous decade.

Though main EMR software program distributors have message capabilities constructed into their platforms, these don’t provide the performance devoted communication and collaboration can present.  “[A] widespread criticism we hear is EMR distributors can’t sustain with the extent of innovation seen by third-party tech corporations that concentrate on explicit options,” he stated. “Thus, replicating the Slack expertise is troublesome.” 

Distant work and cellular messaging

Having relied on a group collaboration software program for a number of years, Valley Behavioral Well being was nicely positioned final yr when it needed to assist distant work through the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in keeping with Tait. That shift happened with minimal disruption and no drop-off in productiveness.

“We may see what was occurring with the channels earlier than and after, and simply as a lot work was getting executed; there was simply as a lot exercise,” Tait stated.

One of many ripple results of the pandemic and the transfer to extra distant work has been a better reliance on cellular units, each when it comes to laptops and smartphones. Beforehand, Slack had primarily been accessed on desktop units.

“That’s once we made a giant push: we stated that we have got to make this accessible on folks’s smartphones,” stated Tait.

Now cellular entry is firmly embedded in Valley Behavioral Well being’s collaboration technique. “A part of our onboarding course of is to put in Slack on everyone’s cellphone,” stated Tait. “We inform our staff that, simply as a automotive is required to return to work, a smartphone is critical for them right here to have the ability to work.

“That is been a serious distinction; meaning everyone is way more accessible to get Slack messages, and communication may be way more efficient.”

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.