Keeping Pace with Utah’s Population
Governor Herbert recently announced a major milestone for the State of Utah—our population has grown to three million Utahns. Approximately two-thirds of Utah’s growth since hitting the two million milestone can be attributed to natural increase (births minus deaths).
The Office of Vital Records and Statistics at the Department of Health and local health departments not only track these statistics, but have kept pace with the increased demand without having to add additional resources. For example, they have accommodated a year-over-year increase of 6% in registering death records while also issuing them faster—resulting in an overall 11% improvement.
Vital Records Must be Issued within Five Calendar Days
Vital Records is held to a very high standard for issuing and recording death records—only 5 calendar days from the date of death. This is extremely important for families and relatives of deceased individuals who must have the documentation to conduct business with financial institutions, insurance companies and other government entities.
Death records are also the primary source for mortality information—data compiled from death records are used to tabulate the leading causes of death and trends in mortality over time, which helps to inform public health policy and research.
Vital Records has kept pace with increased demand by piloting and implementing innovative improvement strategies. One such strategy is a partnership with Intermountain Health Care to substantially increase the speed and quality of death registrations.
As a pilot project, Vital Records has worked with Intermountain to integrate the information needed for state death records into the data system. Prior to this project, physicians recorded death record information twice—once for their system and once for the Vital Records system. This change allows some Intermountain physicians to use one process for both systems—saving valuable time and effort.
An evaluation plan was developed prior to the change, which identified the following objectives:
- Eliminate all the barriers or interferences for Intermountain physicians (physicians are one of the main system constraints)
- Increase the overall timeliness of death registrations
- Improve the quality of cause of death information on death certificates
Because an evaluation plan was completed prior to the pilot, there was clear data to show whether or not the change met the overall objectives and, as a result, more medical diagnosis codes were used on Intermountain records and were also completed 13% faster than the control group.
Continual Process Improvement
The team is not stopping there—they are working on additional strategies to remove interferences for physicians as well as targeting improvement efforts with hospitals that take longer than the average to process records. Congratulations to the Vital Records team for their commitment to improvement and innovative thinking! (Shown in picture L to R) Rich Oborn (Director), Leisa Finch, Terry Lucherini, Jeff Duncan, Annie Hope-Ernst, and Charles Bench.