As of January 14, 2020, Microsoft will discontinue support for its popular Windows 7 operating system and Windows Sever 2008. If you’re a healthcare practice using either platform, you need to pay close attention to this fast-approaching deadline – as continuing to run an unsupported operating system leaves you dangerously exposed to serious risks and costly penalties. The time to upgrade your technology to Windows 10 is here and now.

Why do I need to upgrade to Windows 10?

In January 2020, Microsoft will stop releasing security patches for Windows 7. Without these regular security updates, your computers running Windows 7 will be increasingly vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks that could expose your patients’ protected health information (PHI) and other sensitive data.

Failing to upgrade to Windows 10 puts your entire practice at risk. Behind your computer screen, hackers and malware are constantly trying to penetrate your firewall and other security measures that protect your network from cybersecurity threats. By continuing to use Windows 7 you are choosing to put yourself at risk. 

What’s more, running an unsupported operating system will put you out of HIPAA compliance – because HIPAA regulations explicitly require that “procedures for guarding against, detecting, and reporting malicious software” must be in place. If you’re not running a supported operating system that has security updates, compliance with this rule is extremely difficult, if not impossible. The best course of action for protecting your patients’ data and your practice from non-compliance issues is to upgrade to Windows 10. The modest learning curve for a new operating system is far worth the protection it will bring your practice. 

Preparing your practice for Windows 7 end of life

A smooth and successful upgrade to a new operating system is best achieved with an IT provider who has expertise in healthcare systems.  A healthcare practice IT expert will help you address a number of important decisions that will need to be made — especially if you have numerous computers of varying ages. 

A transition like this is a valuable time to determine a deadline and budget for needed upgrades and replacements. Systems that are 3+ years old typically need to be replaced. Once your computer system is updated, replaced, and running smoothly, a solid training program will help your employees learn all the ins and outs of your new technology, so your practice isn’t exposed to downtime.

Since Windows Server 2008 is also being discontinued, there will be no more security patches to keep malware from attacking your server. Most servers that are still running Windows Server 2008 should be updated with new hardware and Windows Server 2016 operating system software. 

Planning your financing 

If you’re fortunate to have access to the cash funds (such as via bank loan), you’ll need to plan to make a large, lump sum payment, typically every five years, to ensure that your technology is up to date.

However, there are two other financing options that you may want to consider: 

Equipment Leasing: This more affordable option allows you to acquire the technology you need at a consistent monthly payment while preserving your cash and bank credit lines for other necessary expenses, i.e.: expansion, improvements, marketing, or personnel. 

Hardware as a Service (HaaS):  With no initial investment required, HaaS takes care of your practice, providing new, industry-leading equipment, support services, and maintenance for a fixed monthly fee.

Each solution has pro’s and con’s that an experienced healthcare practice IT expert can help you evaluate based on your specific needs.

The time to upgrade to Windows 10 is now.  

While it’s tempting to postpone the upgrade to Windows 10, the potential for exposing your patients and your practice to hackers, malware, and other cybersecurity threats is not something to ignore or delay. Continuing to use an unsupported Windows 7 after January 14th, 2020 will be placing your practice at serious risk and out of compliance.   A smooth transition takes some time – and should not be held off until the last minute.  

We’re ready to help

At Arevtech, we have the deep experience in healthcare practice IT necessary to guide you through a smooth upgrade process, while helping you avoid critical, costly mistakes. It’s time to let Arevtech’s 20+ years of healthcare practice IT experience ensure that your practice is well protected and future-ready.  For more information, please visit our website:  

Ron Vesely is the president and founder of Arevtech LLC, a premiere IT service and solution provider focusing on the unique computer and technology needs of medical and dental practices with expertise in compliance issues.