While CMS did not issue any clarification, officials from ONC as recently as last month stated there would be no changes in Stage 2 compliance deadlines, although those officials did say the decision was ultimately CMS's to make.
But last Friday's announcement threw the industry into confusion that lingered through the weekend.
"They could have easily said, this has no effect on the start date and implementation requirements for Stage 2 in 2014, which is what our concern is, but they didn't say that," says Russ Branzell, CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).
Instead, Branzell says, CMS is proposing the same sort of flexibility for Stage 3 that it provided for Stage 1, while denying any further flexibility on a Stage 2 start date.
"We still believe there is some opportunity for flexibility with them for the beginning of Stage 2," Branzell says. "It's just going to require some hard work."
Toward that end, Branzell will be in Washington D.C. Monday and Tuesday meeting with CMS, legislative, and administration officials to once again press providers' plea for relief from being required to comply with Meaningful Use Stage 2 in 2014.
With ICD-10-compliant technology and processes required to be paid for care reimbursement after October 1, 2014, providers may simply be unable to comply with Stage 2 requirements in 2014, "which is even a greater concern on our part," Branzell says.