The city recently piloted a new electronic death registration system from the state Department of Health that could lead to reduced expenses when it comes to handling death certificates on weekends and at other times.
UTICA — Filing of death certificates on weekends can be costly for the city of Utica.
If the city’s registrar or deputy registrar have to come to work on a weekend, they get paid for four hours of work, said Peter Fiorillo, the city’s budget director. They also get mileage when they go to funeral homes.
Those costs can add up.
The city of Utica is using a new electronic death registration system from the state Department of Health to help with death certificates. Here's a look at some of the anticipated benefits of the program:
* Greater efficiency: Participants access and sign/certify the same case online and interact electronically, reducing travel time and costs.
* Higher data accuracy and reporting of required data items thereby reducing errors, queries and rejection of death certificates.
* Consistency in reported demographics, cause-of-death information, and disease tracking for public health purposes.
* Capability to report cause of death with increased accuracy, uniformity and timeliness as an integral part of patient care.
* Electronic submission of supplemental cause-of-death information and referrals to medical examiners/coroners by physicians, funeral directors and health departments for pending investigations.
* Ease of filing death registrations with the state and complete order requests from a single database.
For instance, the city spent just under $6,590 on overtime last year, Fiorillo said. So far this year, it has cost more than $3,200.
Mileage, he said, runs about $450 a year.
“If they get called in, and they have to come in, then they have to get four hours,” he said. "And then when they go around dropping things off to the funeral parlors, they put in for mileage, too.”
But the city recently piloted a new electronic death registration system from the state Department of Health that could lead to reduced expenses when it comes to handling death certificates on weekends and at other times.
The electronic death registration system, according to the department, is a new secure, web-based way of collecting, storing, recording, transmitting, amending, correcting and authenticating information relating to deaths occurring across the state. Since it is all web-based, it is accessible anywhere that internet access is available.
The system's purpose, according to the department's website, is to:
* Streamline the death registration process.
* Improve the quality and timeliness of the data collected.
* Reduce the time it takes to file death records.
* Improve communication among those responsible for filing.
“Additional benefits ... include faster delivery of death certificates, reduced travel costs for funeral directors, improved disease tracking for public health purposes, and reduction of the potential for fraudulent filing of death benefits due to faster vital events tracking,” the department said in a statement.
William Borrill, the city’s corporation counsel, said the city was selected to try out the program because the city’s existing system was too costly.
“Literally, it takes 15 minutes to sign the (death certificate) and we have to pay them four hours," he said. "If it’s on a holiday, we have to pay them time and a half, so it’s a huge expense. So this electronic filing, I think it’s going to be more efficient for the state. But for us, hopefully, the idea is going to save the city a ton of money.”
In the meantime, the department, which hopes to roll out the system to the entire state in the coming months, said the city and the Tri-County Funeral Directors Association hosted a training session for funeral directors and funeral home staff earlier this month.
That training, attended by approximately 60 people, provided a demonstration of the new system. The department said that the training was "well received." Lea Silvernail, an office worker at the Eannace Funeral Home in Utica, said the new system was a "very much anticipated change."
"You have to go and find the doctor and get them to sign (the death certificate), so you just drop it off at the office hoping that they'll sign it within a good amount of time, and then they call you and say ... it's signed," Silvernail said. "Then the courier has to go back and pick it up. She has to bring it back to us so we can fill it out. The director gives me the information and we fill it out and then you have to, of course, take it over to the city or town and have it filed. So, it's three or four trips for one death certificate."
As of 1953, the death of each person in the state has to be registered immediately and no later than 72 hours after death or the finding of a dead body, according to the health department's website. In 2013, Gov. Andrew Cuomo amended the state's Public Health Law to establish the new registration system.
Rana Huber, director of communications for the New York State Funeral Directors Association, said a 2011 survey indicated that 90 percent of respondents were strongly in favor of a system such as the electronic death registration system in the state.
"Funeral directors' time will be more appropriately used to serve those who have lost a loved one rather than chasing some paper," Huber said. "(The new system) erases an antiquated system. Currently, death certificates are manually prepared in the state and filed within the required 72-hour deadline. So this ... makes it easier to review the status of the certificate. Many times they're able to get a death certificate in a short period of time."
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