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How HIPAA Compliance Relates to Microsoft End-of-Life Support

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Cindy Farmer

Soon, Microsoft will be ending its support for Windows 7. For healthcare organizations, regulatory compliance mandates the need to upgrade systems from unsupported software to avoid compliance violations. An upgrade could mean a physical upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 or it could mean new computers already equipped with Windows 10.

According to HIPAA compliance regulations, running unsupported software poses a significant security risk to your healthcare business. As outlined in HIPAA Security Rule 45 C.F.R. & 164.308 (a)(5)(ii) (B), organizations must implement procedures for detecting, guarding against and reporting malicious software.

Since Windows 7 will no longer receive security patches after January 14, 2020, vulnerabilities will no longer be fixed. Patches will no longer be available, the security of your systems will be at risk and consequences may be levied in the form of hefty fines.

According to Angela Simmons, CCSA, CHPC, BS and Principal Consultant at CentraVance Consulting, LLC, a privacy and security consulting firm,

“The risk for cybersecurity and data breaches increases substantially once a computer’s operating system reaches its’ end-of-life. Protecting patient data should be every health care provider’s priority. Not only is it best for the patients, but it helps protect the healthcare provider’s reputation. If a cybersecurity or data breach occurs, a health care provider can face serious fines for not being HIPAA compliant. Although, these fines can be quite high, the cost of losing one’s reputation can far exceed the cost of non-compliance. Therefore, to ensure that patient data is protected, it is best to use systems that are up to date, as well as supported and monitored.”

For today’s healthcare organizations to maintain the security of the sensitive health care data they handle, an upgrade to Windows 10 is necessary. Otherwise, they run the risk of costly data breaches and fines resulting from security vulnerabilities.

Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Windows 10 Upgrades

EHR platforms give your practice a secure means of maintaining and sharing electronic protected health information (ePHI) with other health care providers and organizations involved in a patient’s care. By using encrypted files they offer cost efficiency, better patient care and enhanced data security. EHR providers must be HIPAA compliant in order to protect clients’ health care data from security incidents.

Additionally, the equipment used to run these platforms must be up-to-date so that the software properly works. In order to comply with HIPAA compliance regulations, all systems used to transmit, receive, store, or alter electronic protected health information (ePHI) must be encrypted, which, in the event of a theft, renders stored and transmitted data unreadable and unusable.

Any system or software that accesses ePHI must incorporate appropriate security protections to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data. With a Windows 10 upgrade, your practice can rest assured that the ePHI it manages is secure. Technology-rich environments include up-to-date systems and equipment with practice management solutions that make work more efficient through data safety and immediate access to patient records.

To continue to operate in a secure environment and avoid compliance violations, all healthcare providers will need to upgrade their systems, sooner rather than later. If you need help with End-of-Life support upgrade planning, get ProActive! We can help you to stay in compliance and implement solutions for a smooth transition. Contact us today!

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