Windows XP Support Sunsetting: Preparing for April 8

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will end support for its Windows XP operating system.

This means any device running the XP operating system will no longer receive security patches to protect the device from viruses, spyware and other malicious software; technical support from Microsoft or software and content updates.

It's yet another project on CIOs' already full plates, and for many, the upgrade and transition process has taken a backseat to meaningful use, ICD-10 and 2014's other must-do projects. "In the past what would have been a dedicated six- or nine-month project for a technology officer, a straight blinders-on, take-care-of-this initiative, now it's being done in the peripheral," says Russ Branzell, CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. "It's now, 'Let's get this done without screwing up any of the major initiatives.'"

Some CIOs have turned to desktop virtualization to help with the process. Desktop virtualization allows an end user to use an operating system hosted on a remote server or in the cloud, meaning a virtual desktop with Windows 7 or another virtual OS would be available on all PCs in a hospital without having to update them individually.

According to a survey by cloud services vendor Evolve IP, the XP sunsetting has prompted a large number of organizations to consider using a virtual desktop solution. About two-thirds of respondents (64.5 percent) reported having plans to include at least some virtualized desktop infrastructure into their upgrade plans.

Mason General Hospital in Shelton, Wash., has deployed a virtualized desktop solution to positive results. According to a Dell whitepaper, the hospital now has a secure OS hospitalwide that can be updated in hours and has improved clinicians' workflow by allowing their personal desktops to follow them from machine to machine.

However, it's not just PCs that need to be updated. Many medical devices also currently run on XP, adding to the pressure of the April 8 sunset date.

"What's happening is our biomedical folks are coming to us and saying their vendor for a particular product has said they're no longer supporting XP," says Randy McCleese, CIO of St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, Ky. "However, many vendors are struggling to update to Windows 7 … So we're having to be concerned about all that in addition to everything else we're doing."

More Articles on Windows XP:

The Top 10 Game Changers in Hospital IT
Upgrade From Windows XP to Remain HIPAA-Compliant

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