CMS has announced it will extend the federal programs to encourage hospitals and physicians to adopt electronic health records — with Stage 2 now starting in 2015 and continuing through 2016, and Stage 3 beginning in 2017 for providers that have completed two or more years at that lower level.

CMS expects to issue a proposed rule for Stage 3 in fall 2014 and to outline details of the new timeline. The final rule would follow in the first half of 2015.

The delay should give some providers and software companies much-needed relief on the tight implementation deadlines they've been facing.