Is Slack HIPAA-compliant? 5 alternatives for healthcare organizations

Rocket.Chat Content Team
December 27, 2022
·
5
min read

Slack is one of the most popular instant messaging tools for organizations of all sizes. Due to its easy interface and features, many clinics and healthcare establishments prefer to use Slack for their everyday communication.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a law that guides how to protect sensitive PHI (patient health information). To conduct business securely and reduce the risk of disclosing patient personal information, healthcare providers are implementing software to ensure adherence to HIPAA regulations. 

While Slack can be a valuable tool for communication in healthcare, it is important to consider whether it meets the requirements for HIPAA compliance.

In this article, we find out whether Slack is HIPAA compliant and, if not, the best alternative tools to ensure an excellent messaging experience while safeguarding patient data.

Is Slack HIPAA-compliant?

The short answer is: yes and no.

Yes — because you can modify Slack to use it HIPAA-compliantly.

At the same time, no — because not every edition of Slack automatically adheres to HIPAA standards.

To make Slack HIPAA-compliant, you can follow these steps:

1. Use the Slack Enterprise Grid plan

The Slack Enterprise Grid plan is a subscription service that allows organizations to use the collaboration platform on a larger scale. This plan allows adding as many users and channels as they need to support their communication and collaboration needs.

This plan enables organizations to create shared channels between teams, departments, or business units. It includes enhanced security and compliance features to meet compliance and data protection requirements.

2. Sign BAA with Slack and 3rd party integrations providers

You must sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with your tech provider to obtain a HIPAA-compliant chat. Your tech suppliers must adhere to the same guidelines and requirements as you do to protect your data if you want to be HIPAA compliant.

To sign a BAA with Slack and third-party integration providers, you will need to determine which third-party integration providers you will be working with and whether they are willing to sign a BAA with you.

3. Customize Slack for HIPAA compliance

To customize Slack for HIPAA compliance, set up user roles and permissions to ensure that only authorized users can access sensitive health information. Also, provide training to all employees on HIPAA regulations and how to handle sensitive health information in Slack.

Enable end-to-end encryption for all communication in Slack to protect sensitive information from external threats. Ensure that all devices used to access Slack are securely stored and protected through password protection, biometric authentication, and physical locks.

Drawbacks of using Slack for communication in healthcare

Even though Slack is a popular and beloved chat app, healthcare organizations might have to think twice before using it in their rows. Here are some of the drawbacks of using Slack in healthcare:

1. No on-premise deployment

Healthcare organizations choose software with on-premise deployment because it’s an additional security measure that gives you complete control over your patients’ data and its use. Slack and other messaging platforms are cloud-based, meaning your control over sensitive data is low. Therefore, many experts recommend using an on-premises communication platform to meet regulatory requirements.

2. Lack of airtight privacy

Slack may need to be more secure to exchange sensitive healthcare information. As per research, around 95% of the US population had their medical information revealed between 2009 and 2021. Unfortunately, Slack not being an entirely HIPAA-compliant platform means there are always scopes of compliance risks.

3. The difficulty of cross-institutional collaboration

Many clinics collaborate with labs or other clinics, and sometimes they need to exchange PHI. It’s unclear if you can set up Slack Connect (bridge to different workspaces) in a HIPAA-compliant way. Furthermore, Slack may fail to meet the level of security and control that some healthcare organizations require while collaborating.

4. You cannot communicate with patients securely via Slack

Slack is designed for team communication and collaboration. The HIPAA-compliant setup you can create does not extend beyond your organization (and your partners via Slack Connect), meaning that you cannot communicate with patients via Slack, at least not in a HIPAA-compliant way.

5. No integrated DLP

DLP or Data Loss Prevention is a set of processes and tools that classifies confidential data and identifies violations of pre-defined HIPAA policies. Slack does not have an integrated DLP tool, so you'd have to deploy a third-party DLP solution

To avoid these issues, we have put together a list of the top 5 alternatives to Slack for HIPAA-compliant messaging that enable teams in healthcare enterprises to communicate with clients in a secure and private environment.

5 best alternatives to Slack for healthcare organizations

1. Rocket.Chat

Slack HIPAA

Rocket.Chat is a privacy-first solution that can be deployed on-premise. It works on Matrix federation (cross-institutional collab), and you can use it for both patient communication and internal team collaboration. Its flexibility and integrations allow it to be tailored to meet compliance demands for secure healthcare communication

With its contextual interactions, Rocket.Chat's omnichannel customer collaboration enables patients to contact healthcare providers through various social media channels.

2. OhMD

Slack HIPAA

OhMD makes a great point about the benefits of using HIPAA-compliant messaging as a patient communication software. Patients can communicate with their healthcare providers, schedule appointments, and access their health information. It can be done through a secure platform that meets HIPAA requirements to protect personal health information.

If you're a healthcare professional looking for a HIPAA-compliant messaging platform, OhMD can be an excellent option to consider.

3. Revenue Well

Slack HIPAA

Revenue Well is an all-in-one Dental Marketing Platform. Its messaging feature allows healthcare providers to communicate with their patients and other care team members in a secure and compliant manner.

It enables healthcare providers to improve patient engagement and streamline their workflow.

4. Trillian

Slack HIPAA

Trillian is a cutting-edge, secure instant messaging platform for businesses, healthcare, and individuals. It has been assisting people in maintaining secure connections for over 20 years. Trillian offers businesses and healthcare professionals of all sizes safe (and HIPAA-compliant) communication.

5. Luma Health

slack hipaa

Luma Health is a healthcare technology company offering a HIPAA-compliant messaging platform. It allows healthcare providers to communicate with patients and other healthcare professionals in a secure and compliant manner. 

Because of its self-scheduling platform, Luma Health can lower its customers' no-show rates and cancellations. It includes features like secure messaging, appointment scheduling, and automated reminders, all designed to improve the patient experience and increase efficiency.

What's the best way to go?

As HIPAA compliance is of supreme importance, healthcare providers and clinics must consider privacy, control, and affordability while choosing a suitable communication channel. Even though it's a great team communication tool for teams, Slack is not the best suited software for healthcare organizations.

Rocket.Chat’s open-source technology, on-premise deployment, and capability of consistent collaboration following HIPAA regulations could make it an ideal choice for the healthcare industry. By implementing additional security measures, Rocket.Chat increases operational effectiveness for enterprises involved in the healthcare industry.

Get in touch with our team to learn more about Rocket.Chat's HIPAA-compliant messaging software.

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