What not to do

Feb. 24, 2020

We’re all familiar with the debunked assurance, “If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.”

Political partisanship aside, the promise doesn’t work with software.

Granted, it works with vehicles in an extended, but limited way. Why? Well, cars require ongoing routine maintenance and service – components and parts wear out and must be replaced and the body and frame rusts without the expensive coating. A well-maintained car should be able to last at least 20 years. For it to be regarded as an authentic classic (older than 25) or antique (50 years and older), according to the Antique Automobile Club of America (the Classic Car Club of America is a bit more generous in lowering the baselines by five years), you most likely have to let it undergo a pricey, full-on, frame-off restoration, sequester it in a temperature-controlled garage, drive it sporadically to shows and growl at misbehaving kids with sticky fingers not to touch it and wipe it down with a diaper every weekend.

Alas, you can’t do that with software either.

In healthcare (but also everywhere else!), we all have to come to terms with this assurance that not only is a promise but a guarantee: “If you like Windows 7 you can’t keep using Windows 7.”

No matter how much we bristle, protest and whine, Microsoft simply decided to pull the plug on supporting its famously popular and well-regarded product. They can do that. General Motors killed Pontiac and Oldsmobile (tears and jeers), Chrysler killed the 1980s K-cars as well as the Neon and the Omni (cheers) and now Ford is killing its entire car line-up, save for the Mustang, crossover SUVs and SUVs (fears).

Organizations that continue to use software not backed up by its manufacturer (in terms of keeping security measures up-to-date) or some other authorized (or unauthorized? Careful…) third party leaves them vulnerable to cybersecurity crises and hacking disasters.

Boston-based BitSight (www.bitsight.com), a cybersecurity ratings company, monitors about 60,000 organizations across multiple industries. BitSight found that nearly 70 percent continue to use Windows 7 to some extent. In fact, roughly 90 percent of organizations employing more than 100,000 people continue to use Windows 7 on an unspecified number of computers. Further, and here’s the kicker, BitSight found that more than 40 percent of large finance and healthcare institutions, as well as roughly 30 percent of large government and political firms have at least one in four employees using Windows 7.


For a healthcare industry concerned about the threat of cybersecurity – and the growing number of healthcare organizations falling victim to hackers poking around and electronically extracting what should be confidential information – this so-called “patch,” as in upgrading to Windows 10, for instance seems like a no-brainer.

Yes, the nine-year-old Windows 7 software is so comfortable, convenient and user-friendly. But its manufacturer has decided it has outlived its useful life and like a venerable warship it must be decommissioned.

Give Microsoft plaudits and props, however, for continuing to offer paid support for professional and enterprise versions of the expiring (technically, expired) products for another three years.

Unfortunately, healthcare organizations frown on change; trying to modify organizational behavior is akin to executing successfully a three-point turn of an oil tanker trying to reverse its way through the Panama Canal.

Ironically, the one piece of technology we excitedly and faithfully demonstrate willingness to upgrade is our mobile smart-phones. When companies like Apple, Motorola, Samsung and the rest roll out new models sporting clever names or numerals we run right out to make the change, even if the only difference involves five more megapixels of camera lens clarity or Von Dutch-inspired pinstripes.

Maybe therein lays the solution: Microsoft merely needs to make upgrading to Windows 10 … “fashionable.” TLC canceled the decade-long “What Not To Wear” nearly seven years ago; Microsoft should launch “What Not To Do” and highlight the organizational horror stories around retaining Windows 7.

About the Author

Rick Dana Barlow | Senior Editor

Rick Dana Barlow is Senior Editor for Healthcare Purchasing News, an Endeavor Business Media publication. He can be reached at [email protected].