ORLANDO — While acknowledging that health care providers and vendors are under immense pressure to meet mounting deadlines, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said that the agency will not be tapping the brakes.

“Now is not the time for us to stop moving forward,” Tavenner said during her speech today at HIMSS14. “We do understand that some providers and vendors may legitimately have issues with establishing Stage 2 reporting deadlines, so we have decided to permit flexibility in how hardship exceptions will be granted in the 2014 reporting year. We will work with you, and while we are glad to offer this flexibility and to look at legitimate cases of hardship, I must stress to you that we do expect all Stage 2-eligible providers to fully meet all requirements in 2015, and I urge all of you to do everything you can to meet the Stage 2 requirements this year.”

That’s not exactly the answer provider groups were looking for when 48 of them sent HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a letter expressing concerns about hospitals’ and providers’ ability to meet a higher threshold of meaningful use criteria. “We fear the success of the program is in jeopardy, however, if steps are not taken now to address our shared concerns,” they wrote.

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak with CMS’ Elizabeth Holland, director of HIT initiatives in the Office of E-health Standards & Services, and in this video, she assess the field's overall adoption of health IT and explains how hospitals can apply for a hardship exception.