in HIPAA Headlines by John Brewer

Microsoft has announced they will stop delivering security updates for Windows XP.  In fact, that will happen on April 8, 2014.

This may not seem like a big deal to you, but by making this announcement, Microsoft is essentially saying XP is dead after this date.

Will XP still work?  Yes.

Can keep using XP?  Yes.

Is it smart to keep using XP?  Here is a quote from Ed Bott of

“Frankly, I can’t imagine anyone deliberately choosing to continue using an outdated and increasingly insecure operating system when other options are readily available.”

So the answer is, it depends.

Technically, you can keep using XP.

Is it smart?  No.

Yet, upgrading to a newer version of Windows might be somewhat of a challenge.

Here are some of the challenges you may run into, I’ll start with the challenges of those on a “cloud” based EHR, then move into the “in-house” server based EHR issues.

First some basics: we are in a stage where upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 8 in not desirable for some folks.  The “look and feel” of Windows 8 is a big change from XP.  The other option is to upgrade to Windows 7.  This is an easy upgrade for users as the interface is very similar.

The challenge here is, most new computers you buy these days will have Windows 8 already installed on it.  In order to buy a new computer with Windows 7 installed, you will generally need to purchase a “business class” computer from Dell or HP or others, and specifically request Windows 7 be installed.

Another method is to purchase a copy of Windows 7 and install it on an existing computer.  If you choose to do this, make sure the computer has the hardware requirements not only for Windows 7 (realistically 4 gb RAM), but also for your EHR.  You also want to make sure you clarify whether your EHR is capable of running on the 64-bit version of either Windows or IE.

Cloud Based EHR

I’m sure one of the selling points made to you was “you don’t have to worry about upgrades”.  This may be true concerning the EHR overall, but it is not necessarily true about the software you are using, specifically the internet browser that you are using.  Most cloud-based EHRs still prefer/require Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE).  Which version is the main question.  Checking with your EHR vendor for exactly which version of IE is the key question to ask.

Next you need to clarify which, if any, browser plugins may be installed.  Many times, none is the answer here.

Finally realize, your EHR vendor may charge a fee to reinstall any EHR software on your computers…yes, this some cloud-based EHRs do install software on your computers.

Server Based EHR

Those of you who run your EHR from a server that is in your office have a few other things to consider.  Generally speaking, your EHR will require both a certain version of Windows and a certain version of IE.  Many times these specifics prevent you from upgrading to the latest of either.  This can put you in a bind, as mentioned earlier, it can be a challenge to buy a new PC with Windows 7 vs. Windows 8.

So, when looking to upgrade your computers, be sure to check with your EHR vendor on exactly which operating system they support AND which internet browser they support.

Really, whether you are on “the cloud” or an in-house server, you need to take the same issues into account for most EHRs.

To try an simplify this, below is a checklist of questions you should ask.  I’m not going to differentiate between cloud or in-house as you’ll be informed with the answer from your EHR vendor is one of the questions is not a factor.  If you are one of the few who uses an EHR that runs on the Apple OS, simply substitute Apple Operating System below where you see Windows.

Quick computer upgrade questions:

  1. What version(s) of Windows is required?
  2. Does it matter if it is 23-bit or 64-bit?
  3. What version(s) and/or types of internet browser is required?
  4. What are the recommended hardware requirements?
  5. If you plan to run Windows from an Apple computer, be sure to clarify with your EHR vendor this desire and find out if they require a certain version of software that will run Windows.  Also realize there may be a higher hardware requirement.
  6. Is Microsoft Office required?
    • If so, which version?

These questions should set you up for properly upgrading your computers

So, before any upgrades check with your EHR vendor for minimum hardware specifications before you do anything.

By John Brewer

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