Will Your Medical Office’s Computers Be HIPAA Compliant on January 14?

August 6, 2019

You may have heard the buzz about big changes from Microsoft regarding your computers and servers next January. Like those automated maintenance reminders you get for just about everything these days (and put off) you may actually want to revisit this alert sooner rather than later. 

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that it will end support for Windows 7 and Server 2008 on January 14, 2020. What this means for healthcare organizations handling sensitive patient data is an immediate need to start planning for a software migration or risk falling out of HIPAA compliance by deliberately compromising patient data.

Just like the end of Windows XP in 2014, all good things, and operating systems, must eventually come to an end. The catch is, after January 14, Microsoft will no longer provide important security updates for these operating systems. Without regular updates and patches from Microsoft, your systems aren’t protected from the latest threats, putting sensitive patient data at great risk. 

If your office has computers running Windows 7 or Windows servers running Server 2008, we’ve put together some tips to get you on your way to remaining compliant: 

For Computers…

  1. Don’t buy anything.

We will start with this option because if, by chance, you recently purchased a new computer within the past 2-3 years, you may already have a Windows 10 license just waiting to be activated. Knowing the impending end of Windows 7 was coming, many newer computers were sold with operating system downgrade options that included both a Windows 7 and Windows 10 license. This would be a best case scenario for many and buy you a little more time.   

  1. Buy a Windows 10 license and upgrade the existing workstation’s operating system.

If you decide to go this route, the biggest caveat is that not all workstations will be compatible for an upgrade. Only computers that are less than five years old are likely to be compatible in running Windows 10 and you should consult with an IT professional before you do anything to be sure. 

  1. Do a hardware refresh and buy a new computer with Windows 10.

As tough as this last option may be to swallow, doing a complete swap out for new hardware is most always the safest bet. And, in many IT environments, routine hardware refreshes are actually recommended for maintaining a healthy network.

For Servers…

A slightly different story, brace yourself. If your Windows server is running Server 2008, chances are that it’s running on hardware that is more than five years old. In that case, best case scenario is to replace the server entirely. 

While it may sound worse than it actually is, there is still plenty of time to make a plan. Computers running Windows 8 or Windows 10 will remain compliant and still be supported by Microsoft, along with Server 2012 and Server 2016 versions. 

If all of this has made your head spin, rest assured, you can make lemonade out of these lemons. While any IT investment can be hard on a budget, more and more small businesses, and health practitioners alike, are shifting to a managed IT model to make critical expenses like operating system upgrades more manageable. 

In a managed IT partnership, you pay a set monthly fee for comprehensive services and a customized plan that fits you. As an extension of your own internal IT department, we not only design a strategy that meets your budget and business needs, but we also provide 24/7 network monitoring, security updates, HelpDesk support, application design, and assist you with HIPAA compliance so you never have to worry about it. 

The fact is, today’s copiers and printers go hand in hand with IT. Even small changes to your network, such as getting a new computer, server, operating system, or internet provider may cause your copiers and printers to have network connectivity issues. 

If you’re already working with us for your office equipment needs, we should talk, because chances are we already have a pretty good idea of how your network works. Give us a call and we’ll walk you through everything you need to remain HIPAA compliant. With just under six months to go, the clock is ticking!

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Beyond copiers and printers, CDS offers a full suite of technology solutions ranging from Managed Print Services, to Managed IT Services, and Project-Based IT Services, providing our customers a Single Source for all their business technology needs.

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