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Upgrades are underway on approximately 14,000 desktops and laptops for about 9,500 Microsoft users at Naval Support Activity Bethesda, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) and tenant commands supported by the medical center’s Information Technology Department (ITD).

“This is our number one priority for the fall going into winter,” said Luis Lopez, ITD chief operations officer at WRNMMC. “It’s our entire department and each one has an integral part in the process.”

The 240-person department initiated the biggest information technology project of the 2013 calendar year on Aug. 19. The goal is to upgrade thousands of devices to Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010 by Dec. 31, Lopez said. He cited system enhancement, performance improvement and personal security as the major differences between the current system and the new system.

“It’s a lot more user friendly, and easier to navigate,” Lopez said. “It’s all-around a lot more efficient than the prior operating system which is Microsoft XP.”

Navy Lt. William J. Walders, chief information officer for WRNMMC, explained three reasons for the upgrade. Beginning in calendar year 2014, AHLTA, the inpatient Electronic Health Record (EHR) used at WRNMMC, its clinics and all other military treatment facilities, will require Windows 7. The upgrade to Windows 7 requires the addition of Microsoft Office 2010. Lastly, Microsoft support of Windows XP will end April 2014.

“What that basically means is that Microsoft will no longer provide patches, security updates and improvements which are required to sustain our network’s integrity,” Walders said.

Migration between the two operating systems will be done in phases, beginning with the administrative buildings on base first, working to the outpatient areas and ultimately to the inpatient side of the house, Lopez explained, to minimize the impact on patient care.

Most laptop users are on a virtual private network, so they will be emailed by last name in a separate effort than desktop users, according to Lopez. “That is the technology used to enable our users to connect to our hospital network remotely.”

Desktop users will be contacted through their department heads or designated point of contacts via email at three intervals: 7-days, 3-days, and 24-hours prior to the scheduled upgrade, which will be done remotely overnight after 9 p.m. “We notify three separate times to let them know that there are several things they need to do [before their department is upgraded],” Lopez said. “When you show up to work [the next day], your computer should be on Windows 7 with everything there.”

Lopez urges all users to back-up all their data to the H: drive. “If you don’t have an H: drive, please submit a ticket to the help desk and we will create one for you,” he said.

According to the chief operations officer, a dedicated “tiger team” of 5-10 ITD staff will be available in the department the night before the upgrade and the following day to provide assistance in any way they can.

Desktop users can also visit the ‘Windows 7 Information’ page on the ITD’s page on the WRNMMC intranet. The information page contains links to a computer backup and migration checklist, helpful links and tips for the new system, a calendar that shows a schedule for migration by departments, as well as dates, times and locations for Windows 7 Question and Answer sessions ITD holds twice each week for staff to attend to learn about the new system. Visit https://www.wrnmmc.intranet.capmed.mil/Administration/ITD/W7I/SitePages/Home.aspx for a sharepoint link to the information.

Any problems or questions about Windows 7 can also be submitted via email to WRNMWindows7@health.mil, where users can also provide feedback about the new operating system.