As federal officials descend on HIMSS14 to talk up Stage 2 of the electronic health records meaningful use program, 48 provider associations and societies are reminding the feds that Stage 2 is in trouble.

In a letter timed for release during the conference, the organizations tell HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that they fear success of the program is jeopardized “if steps are not taken now to address our shared concerns.”

The groups note that 5,000 hospitals and 550,000 eligible physicians face meeting initial Stage 2 during the next seven months, but the industry isn’t ready for the new stage. “With only a fraction of 2011 Edition products currently certified to 2014 Edition Standards, it is clear that the pace and scope of change have outstripped the ability of vendors to support providers,” according to the letter. “This inhibits the ability of providers to manage the transition to the 2014 Edition of certified electronic health records technology and Stage 2 in a safe and orderly manner.”

With a shortage of certified products, providers must either abandon efforts to meet Stage 2 and accept financial penalties, “or be forced to implement a system much more rapidly than would otherwise be the case,” the associations contend. Providers need time, they asserted, to learn newly deployed technology as well as associated workflows and processes.

The organizations strongly urge Sebelius to extend timelines for providers to implement Stage 2 software through 2015, and to permit other types of providers to be eligible for the meaningful use program.

During a pre-HIMSS symposium on Feb. 23, an official from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services strongly hinted that Stage 2 relief may come soon. FierceHealthIT reports that Robert Tagalicod, director of the office of e-health standards and services, said an announcement at HIMSS on Feb. 27 would be “under the rubic of relief.”

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