How Valley Behavioral Health uses Slack in a regulated industry

How Valley Behavioral Health uses Slack in a regulated industry
            Las herramientas de colaboración en equipo se han vuelto populares en varias industrias en los últimos años, reemplazando el correo electrónico con “canales” de chat grupal para la comunicación en tiempo real.  Para Valley Behavioral Health, esto significa usar Slack para mejorar el flujo de información entre los miembros del personal mientras se garantiza que los datos de los pacientes permanezcan protegidos.
Though primarily a Microsoft store, the Utah-based mental health service provider uses Slack's Enterprise Grid for internal communications among its 750 employees, connecting doctors, therapists, laborers, social workers, and other staff. Valley Behavioral Health has channels for care coordination and a wide range of other purposes, from HR inquiries to property management issues (users can upload a photo of faulty equipment in office buildings, for example) the sending computer tickets. There is also a "general" channel that allows for informal conversations between colleagues. “It's a real hub of communication across our business,” Valley Behavioral Health Director of IT Tyler Tait said in a recent interview.

Secure patient information

As an organization that operates in a highly regulated field, healthcare, Valley Behavioral Health must manage Protected Health Information (PHI) submitted by staff using a digital communications platform. While not initially intended for regulated industries, Slack's Enterprise Grid, announced in 2018, can be configured to be Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant, by adding encryption and data protection capabilities. . With Enterprise Grid, Valley Behavioral Health's PHI data is encrypted at rest and in transit on Slack's servers and can be saved on its own encrypted drives. For auditing purposes, it is possible to see which RPS have been shared with whom and when. There were practical benefits for the staff. HIPAA compliance has allowed Valley Behavioral Health agents to send messages containing PHI information on certain channels, allowing for faster communication across the organization, Tait said. As an example, he cited parents who regularly pick up their children from Valley Behavioral Health's School for Autistic Children. When staff are notified of a parent's arrival, the chat message containing their child's name may be considered confidential patient information. Tyler tait Valley Behavioral Health Tyler Tait, IT director for Valley Behavioral Health. “They have to know which child, you can't just say the client's ID,” Tait said. “We were able to make it more efficient: it was an easier and more immediate way for them to communicate. Despite this, Valley Behavioral Health advises its staff to avoid sharing PHI on Slack unless it is necessary, for example, PHI is not allowed in the "general" channel. “It was huge for us to be able to allow people to put PHI into Slack; this has been great for the specific times and use cases where it has been needed. But at the end of the day, we tell people, "If you don't need to share patient information on Slack, don't," he said. Instead, RPS are shared in small private groups or direct messages between individuals, as appropriate. There are other ways that Valley Behavioral Health protects patient information. Minimize third-party integrations to reduce the risk of data transfer to third-party providers. It also chose not to integrate Slack with its electronic medical records (EMR) system, in order to separate patient data from the collaboration platform. “Slack is a communication tool to keep people engaged: it's immediate, it's fully up to date, and it keeps everyone informed,” he said. "I wouldn't necessarily see it as an archive or data repository of information, even if it's HIPAA compliant." While team collaboration tools aren't widely used in healthcare, said Seth Feder, a senior healthcare analyst at Gartner, interest is growing. This reflects, in part, the broader maturity of healthcare IT environments following the widespread adoption of EMR systems over the last decade. While the major EMR software vendors have messaging capabilities built into their platforms, they don't offer the functionality that dedicated communication and collaboration can. “The common complaint we hear is that EMR providers can't keep up with the level of innovation seen by third-party technology companies that focus on particular solutions,” he said. “So replicating the Slack experience is difficult. ."

Remote work and mobile messaging

Having relied on team collaboration software for several years, Valley Behavioral Health was in a good place last year when it had to take over remote work during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Tait. This change has occurred with minimal disruption and no drop in productivity. “We were able to see what was happening with the chains before and after, and there was a lot of work being done; there was so much activity,” Tait said. One of the ripple effects of the pandemic and the shift to more remote work has been an increased reliance on mobile devices, both in terms of laptops and smartphones. Previously, Slack was mainly accessible on desktop devices. “That's when we made a big effort: we said we have to make this accessible on people's smartphones,” Tait said. Mobile access is now firmly anchored in Valley Behavioral Health's collaborative strategy. “Part of our onboarding process is getting Slack on everyone's phone,” Tait said. “We tell our employees that just like a car is necessary to get to work, a smartphone is necessary for them to work here. “It was a big difference; this means that everyone is much more accessible to receive Slack messages and communication can be much more efficient.
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