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HIPAA Alert: Microsoft Windows 7 End of Life

Microsoft has ended support for Windows 7

It’s hard to believe but Windows 7 was released in 2009! In 2009, the iPhone was only a couple of years old and the #1 song on the radio was by the Black Eyed Peas.

Following Microsoft’s popular Windows XP operating system, Windows 7 won a lot of accolades and support over its life. In its day, it was a big step forward with its user interface, experience and ease-of-use. In addition, it was also very stable. As with most products, eventually, there is a time to say goodbye and for Windows 7, that time has come.

What does end of support mean?

Microsoft has officially ended support for Windows 7 as of January 14th, 2020, but that doesn’t mean Windows 7 stops working. However, Microsoft will no longer be providing any of the following:

  • Technical support for any issues
  • Software updates
  • Security updates or fixes

This means that your Windows 7 is now frozen in time and should be considered a relic.

What does this mean for my practice's HIPAA compliance?

Receiving support and software updates/new features may not be that big of a deal to you, but security updates are essential. One important aspect of HIPAA is keeping software systems up to date with the latest patches. The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) recently reminded everyone that if there are no patches available, there is no way to stay compliant. This means you need to take swift action to phase out Windows 7 at your practice

What should I do now?

You may have read that Microsoft offers extensions of updates and this is partially true. Microsoft offers an “Extended Service Update” program. However, this program is only available to large organizations that have contracts with Microsoft (think hospitals with thousands of computers).

The most prudent thing to do is to phase out Windows 7. The latest and greatest is currently Windows 10. The easiest and fastest way to do this is to buy a new computer with Windows 10 pre-installed. It is possible to upgrade a computer to Windows 10, but you may find that the computer simply feels slow since the age of computers running Windows 7 is likely 5+ years old.

If you’re using a web based EMR, getting a new computer and switching to Windows 10 should be no big deal. If you’re using a server-based or web-accessible then it’s best to check with your vendor to figure out if the new operating system is compatible with your system.

The Bottom Line

If you have Windows 7, it’s time to upgrade to the latest and greatest while being mindful of HIPAA.

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