XP is Dead!

Microsoft is discontinuing support for Windows XP and Office 2003 on April 8, 2014.

Why should you care?

If you don’t have a PC with either of these products in your office, then stop reading and go do something more fun.  If you DO have a PC with Windows XP in your office you may end up having new risks you didn’t plan on and you should read this article through.

Why is this happening?

Two reasons:

  1. Microsoft has been upfront about it for years; they generally only support a product for 10 years and time is up.
  2. Microsoft is a business and they want you to dump your 10 year old computers and go get new ones with a new version of Windows on it (increasing their sales).

What impact does this have on your Practice?

Once Microsoft stops supporting XP you may have new risks in your Practice:

  • Your Practice Management software may no longer be supported or work
  • You will potentially be vulnerable to new security weaknesses discovered
  • You will potentially be vulnerable to new viruses exploiting security weaknesses

Some Practice Management software companies (Ortho2 for example) are using this as an opportunity to stop supporting their products on Windows XP as well.   They are doing this for three logical reasons:

  1. They only want their software running on computers that are kept up to date and patched.
  2. They want you to get rid of those really old PC and run their software on newer PCs that will make their software work better.
  3. They want you to get rid of those old PCs that are probably less reliable than a new PC, and thus reduce the load on their support center.

Based on their notice – if you are an Ortho2 user they expect you to replace your XP operating systems and Office 2003 software before April 2014.   This might mean reloading existing PCs with new software (upgrading from XP to Windows 7 requires reloading the whole PC), or much more likely purchasing new PCs to replace the old ones.

So far I only know of Ortho2 taking a hard line with requiring all its clients to upgrade before the April 2014 deadline, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other vendors start making the same noises.

What about my X-Ray PC?

Many X-ray systems in Practices today are run on only Windows XP (typically older digital Pan/Ceph units, iCats, etc.).  I’ve seen entire Practices that are all Windows 7 except for one PC, the X-ray PC.   The reason being is that the X-ray software they use was designed for XP and may not be compatible with Windows 7.  If it is available as an upgrade for Window 7 it may not be free and it may be a huge PITA to change the software out.

So what should you do if you have an X-Ray machine running Windows XP?  I would ask your X-Ray machine vendor if the existing machine can be run by a Windows 7 PC.

    • If Yes:
      • Does it require new software?
        • If Yes – ask about the details (costs, implementation process, etc.)
        • If No –This is the path to follow.
      • Can the software run on 64-bit Windows 7?
        • If Yes – this is the path to follow.
        • If No – 32-bit Windows 7 compatible is OK and the path to follow.
    • If No – what suggestion might they have for getting off Windows XP?  If none, now you know you’ll have to make do with the existing XP machine and potential risk.

(Want to know what 32-bit and 64-bit Windows means to your Practice?  Check out my other blog article on just that)

What else might be affected?

I can think of several other situations that changing out the old XP PC might be problematic.  For example, if you run the old Televox HouseCalls system with a special card to make nightly appointment reminder phone calls to patients, you’ll have no supported option for migrating (and it won’t work).

What about Office 2003?

Microsoft is dropping support for Office 2003 (Word, Excel, Outlook, etc) at the same time for the same reasons.  It won’t stop working, but they are stopping patches for it as well.   Ortho2 says they won’t be supporting their products with it anymore either.  I would agree that it’s time to start planning upgrades for this.  Office 2003 isn’t even compatible with Microsoft Exchange 2013 or Office 365 Cloud, so it’s time to upgrade to Office 2013.

Conclusion

Other oddball situations will exist because of this.  You need to start talking about this transition with your IT person to determine your challenges and start finding out if there are solutions.

Ultimately I don’t think it will be a big deal to have just one XP box remaining in the network if needed.   Apply all the updates that are available to it, keep a current antivirus program on it, and do your best with it.  Make an image based backup of it.  Start planning what you can to replace it eventually.  If the PC dies for other reasons, you’ll be back in the same situation.


Update:  So April 8th is behind us and the world hasn’t ended.  What have we seen as a result so far:

  • Microsoft has slipped in some pop ups on some XP boxes for warning of the lack of support.
  • A lot of XP machines that were running Microsoft’s free antivirus program “Microsoft Security Essentials” ground to a halt by a problem with an update just a day or two after April 8th.   They did release a fix within a few days.  The conspiracy theorists out there don’t think this was an accident.
  • Unscrupulous IT companies are continuing to stoke the fire that is you have XP your system is completely HIPAA non-compliant.  Of course, their primary motivation is to scare you into buying a new PC (from them of course).
  • Ortho2 has loosened the requirement to “strongly encourage” you to change rather than a complete “our stuff won’t run on it”.  No surprise there.
  • Dolphin Imaging and Management is also strongly encouraging the change.
  • Imaging Sciences iCat users with XP acquisition PCs are still required to use XP, but ISI has arranged for an extension of support from Microsoft.  This means your XP box for the iCat is NOT a HIPAA violation is ISI keeps it updated.

I am sure there will be more drama to unfold in the months ahead.   The bottom line if you are still running XP, you should look into your options to upgrade soon.


MME TechnicianSince your existing IT person didn’t share this with you, perhaps you would consider working with the people that did. If you need a help with this issue in your Practice, this is what MME Consulting does. Just give us a call at 866-419-1102 or check us out online at www.mmeconsulting.com.

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