November 2017 Vital Records News

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Vital Records News

November 2017

We've cut the paper!

On October 1, 2017, the Office of Vital Records (OVR) implemented a "no paper policy", requiring medical certifiers or their designated staff to enter cause of death information directly into the Minnesota Registration & Certification system (MR&C).

OVR is thrilled to report at the end of October, that 99.7% of all Minnesota death records were filed in MR&C by medical certifiers or their designated staff.

Dr. Susan Viergever wrote: "Being able to enter death certificates online has streamlined the process and been very helpful to me. It is an easy process and decreases the clutter of additional paperwork. It's nice to complete the death certificate in an timely fashion when the details of the death are clear in my mind."

Thanks to all who have made 'Paper Cut' a success!

OVR staff are planning future MR&C improvements to make electronic death record filing even easier. If you need help filing a death record, locating a medical certifier, or filing cause of death – or, if you have an idea to simplify the process, please give us a call at 651-201-5993 or email

Pilot project: Essentia Health to initiate death records by registering medical information first


Under its Paper Cut Project, the Office of Vital Records (OVR) is improving death registration by maximizing use of the Minnesota Registration & Certification (MR&C) system. In October, OVR instituted a “no paper policy” requiring medical certifiers to enter cause of death information directly into MR&C rather than completing a faxed paper worksheet. “By removing paper from the process, death registration no longer needs to follow a linear progression,” Molly Crawford, State Registrar, said. “Our new policy allows us to test out filing cause of death information first.” Starting Monday, November 20, OVR and Essentia Health will partner in a project to register medical information first. In the pilot project, which runs through December 21, 2017, cause of death will be filed before the fact of death for decedents who die at Essentia Health facilities.

The month-long effort will test the feasibility of initiating a death record by registering cause of death (COD) information before fact of death (FOD). To prepare, OVR made several changes to MR&C to remove barriers to filing COD first. Testing MR&C functionality for a “cause of death first” process will help OVR make "COD first" entry as functional as the current method of "FOD first". In 2018, OVR hopes to offer the option to enter "COD first" to medical certifiers and designated staff across the state.

Historically in Minnesota, morticians and funeral home staff have initiated death records. Because death registration traditionally has been a paper process, creating and completing a death record required work to be accomplished in a certain order. Thus, when electronic death registration was introduced to Minnesota 20 years ago, system functionality replicated the linear process and it continued into the current system, MR&C. “The expectation has been for funeral staff to start the death registration process by filing demographic fact of death information first, and the medical certifier responsible for determining cause and manner of death to file the medical portion second,” said Krista Bauer, OVR Registration Supervisor.

Because more than half of Minnesota deaths occur in facilities such as hospitals, long-term care, nursing homes, and hospices, OVR recognized an opportunity to improve and build flexibility into death registration. When a death occurs at a facility, medical certifiers need not wait for a prompt from MR&C telling them to complete COD. By allowing a medical certifier who provided care to the decedent to register the cause and manner of death first, death registration may become even more efficient. Morticians will be relieved of the burden of identifying the medical certifier who will provide cause of death information. In a non-linear death registration process, medical certifiers could register and certify deaths:

  • When information about the death is still fresh in their minds.
  • As part of their other routine documentation activities and responsibilities associated with the decedent’s medical record.
  • Before the body is released to the custody of a mortician or funeral home.

Positioned for success

OVR invited Essentia Health to partner in the project because of their vital records procedures. Several years ago, Essentia Health replicated the Cause of Death worksheet in their electronic health record. According to Jeanne Amato, Essentia Health’s Enterprise Health Information Service Manager, who is leading the internal effort, medical certifiers across the Essentia system have been completing the cause of death worksheet in the decedent's electronic health record while finalizing other documentation in the decedent’s record. OVR also wanted to work with a small project team. Essentia has a team of eight designated staff who have authority to enter cause of death information on behalf of the medical certifiers.

“Essentia was ahead of the curve,” said Crawford. “They have all of the information ready to go. They don’t need to wait for MR&C to alert them when a funeral home files FOD.”

Essentia Health medical certifiers provide COD information for just under 1000 records annually. In 2016, there were 42,163 deaths in Minnesota. Only deaths that occur at Essentia facilities are within the scope of the project. For deaths that occur at home or outside of an Essentia facility, the funeral home will still need to file FOD first.

Registering COD first will affect funeral staff, medical examiners, and coroners 

The pilot will change the usual flow of a death record. When a decedent has an Essentia medical certifier, funeral staff need to pay careful attention when registering the fact of death. When a funeral home enters the decedent's basic information into MR&C, MR&C will check for potential matches. MR&C will alert funeral staff if it suspects that the cause of death for the decedent has been filed already. Funeral staff should stop and consider the potential matches before creating another (possibly duplicate) record. Funeral staff can select the existing record and complete the death registration by filing FOD second.

During the pilot, medical examiners and coroners who serve counties with Essentia Health facilities will continue to receive email notifications for non-natural deaths, injuries, and trigger words such as “fracture” and “abuse” (Medical Examiner referrals). Referred records can be reviewed and processed as usual. When COD is filed first, MR&C cannot email medical examiners or coroners about cremation authorizations because the funeral establishment selects the type of disposition when filing FOD. Medical examiners / coroners will need to watch the 'Pending cremation authorization' work queue for records requiring authorization for final disposition. 

Headquartered in Duluth, Essentia Health has more than 15,000 employees, including 1,900 physicians and advanced practitioners, who serve patients in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Idaho. Essentia Health has 15 hospitals, 75 clinics, six long-term care facilities, three assisted living facilities, three independent living facilities, five ambulance services and one research institute.

November is National Adoption Month: Vital records key to accurate birth records

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and all states recognize the importance of permanent homes and families by promoting and celebrating adoptions during the month of November. The Minnesota Department of Health MDH), Office of Vital Records OVR) plays a key role in supporting adoptions. OVR staff:

  • Make sure that the birth records for children born in Minnesota are updated after adoptions.
  • Collect fees to support the Minnesota Children’s Trust Fund.
  • Register men and conduct searches of the Minnesota Fathers’ Adoption Registry.
  • Protect and manage original birth records.

Updating birth records

In Minnesota, birth parents, adoptive parents, adoption agencies and courts must take certain actions before a court can grant a petition for prospective adoptive par­ents to adopt a child. Adoption creates a new legal parent-child relation­ship and it involves complex social and emotional issues. Both birth parents and adoptive parents make many important decisions that affect them and their child’s future.  

Adoptions may involve a public or non-governmental agency, may be private, may be international, and may involve stepparents or relatives.  

When an adoption takes place in a state different from where the child was born, the vital records office in the ‘birth state’ receives adoption documentation to update the original birth record. After an adoption is finalized for a child born in Minnesota, the district court completes a Certificate of Adoption form and mails it along with a $40 fee to OVR. OVR uses the information provided on the Certificate of Adoption form to create a new birth record showing the adopted birth information. The original birth record is replaced, and it, along with all correspondence pertaining to the original birth record, is considered confidential and released only under very limited circumstances.

If a child is born in a foreign country and adopted by Minnesota residents, the parents file the adoption documents with the district court in the county where they live. Based on the Certificate of Adoption form completed by the court, OVR creates a Minnesota birth record. A certificate issued for this type of record clearly states that it is not evidence of U.S. citizenship.  

As of September 2017, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services,  1,514 children are under state guardianship; 766 children of these children are in need of adoptive families immediately.

    Support to strengthen families

    OVR collects fees to support the Minnesota Children’s Trust Fund. For every Minnesota birth certificate sold, $4 of the $26 fee, goes to the Minnesota Children’s Trust Fund. As part of the Minnesota Department of Human Services child protection system, the Children’s Trust Fund works to prevent child abuse and neglect by working with national and local partners to strengthen children, families and communities. It supports child safety and permanent living situations, including adoption.

    Minnesota Fathers’ Adoption Registry

    In Minnesota, the court requires a search of the Minnesota Fathers' Adoption Registry (MFAR) before finalizing an adoption. MFAR allows possible biological, but not as yet legal fathers to receive notice of pending adoption proceedings for their children. By registering within 30 days of his child's birth, a 'putative' father ensures that he will be able to participate in the decisions that relate to his child. MFAR balances the interests of the mother, child, and father when an adoption plan is being considered and stabilizes the adoption process by placing time limits on a putative father's opportunity to assert his rights.

    Access to original birth records

    In Minnesota, after an adoption, the original birth record becomes confidential. Access to an original birth record after an adoption is restricted. A birth parent may, at any time, give or deny permission to release the original birth information to the adopted person when the adopted person has reached age 19. To do this, the birth parent completes and submits an Affidavit of Disclosure or Non-Disclosure Regarding an Original Birth Certificate of an Adopted Person (PDF) to OVR.   

    An adopted person, age 19 or older, who was born in Minnesota, may request a non-certified copy of the original birth record by completing the Adoptee's Request for Original Birth Record Information and Search for Affidavit of Disclosure or Non-Disclosure (PDF) form. When OVR receives the request, staff will search for an Affidavit of Disclosure/Non-Disclosure according to Minnesota Statutes, sections 144.2252 and 259.89.

    • If a birth parent has given permission to release the original birth information to the adopted person, OVR will send the adopted person a non-certified copy of the original birth record.
    • If the parent filed an Affidavit of Non-Disclosure, OVR will inform the adoptee that a court order is required.
    • If the birth parent did not file an Affidavit of Disclosure or Non-Disclosure, OVR will notify the adopted person that it cannot release a non-certified copy of the original birth record. At the same time, OVR will also notify the Minnesota Department of Human Services to conduct a search for the birth parent(s) according to Minnesota Statutes, section 259.89. The search may take up to six months. OVR will contact the adopted person when the search is complete.

    When an adopted person makes a request for a non-certified copy of the original birth record, or when OVR notifies the Minnesota Department of Human Services about such a request, the Department of Human Services forwards the request to the adoption agency to search for the birth parent(s). Before searching, the adoption agency will contact the adopted person to explain the search services and the fee required to attempt to locate the birth parent(s). If the adopted person goes ahead with a search and the adoption agency finds and notifies the birth parent, the birth parent has the right to file within 31 days an affidavit stating that the information on the birth record should not be disclosed. However, a parent may consent to disclose the information any time, without a time limit. If the birth parent consents, OVR notifies the adoptee of the results. 

    OVR has 1,341 affidavits of non-disclosure and 13,451 affidavits of disclosure on file for birth records going back to 1935.

    Additional information

    Vital Records Classes for 2018

    To help facility leadership plan for and train new staff members, the Office of Vital Records (OVR) offers new user classes to orient people to the Minnesota Registration & Certification (MR&C) System and equip them with information about their new roles and responsibilities. OVR expects new MR&C users to complete these courses within one year, though the introductory classes are most helpful before or during the early months. Vital records training is free, but registration is required because space is limited. Contact to register.

    Birth Registration training:

    Birth Registration 101 – this 4-hour introductory course is taught by OVR staff and designed to give new birth registrars all the information and experience necessary to begin entering birth records. The class is held in a computer lab so each person can practice entering birth records. Laws and requirements governing birth registration and tips to help with accuracy are presented in a participatory-lecture format. Registered attendees will leave the course with resources to help parents and file complete and accurate birth records. Upcoming dates:

    Tuesday, December 12, 2017       Redwood Falls Hospital in Redwood Falls

    Tuesday January 30, 2018             St. Cloud Hospital in St. Cloud

    Thursday, April 19, 2018                MDH Freeman Building in St. Paul

    Tuesday, July 24, 2018                   Mayo Clinic Hospital, Methodist Campus in Rochester

    Tuesday, October 16, 2018           MDH Freeman Building in St. Paul

    Birth Registration eLearning – Applying Best Practices for Reporting Medical and Health Information on Birth Certificates. OVR requires new birth registrar users of MR&C to complete this course. It is designed for physicians, nurses and non-clinical staff at hospitals or free-standing birth centers to increase knowledge of the importance of and best practices for reporting birth certificate and fetal death record information. Free continuing education credits (CME,  CNE, CEU and CPH) are available after successful completion of this one-hour course. Access the course anytime at

    Death Registration training for Morticians and Funeral Home Staff:

    The Five R's of Death Documentation; the Rules, Requirements and Resources for Recording and Registering Minnesota Deaths – this course guides participants through the death registration process and illustrates the importance of accurate death record information. Upon completion, participants will know the requirements for death records and be able to recognize their critical role in public health. This 3-hour class is presented in a lecture-discussion format with time for hands-on learning. This class is offered Thursday, October 18, 2018 at the MDH Freeman Building in St. Paul.

    And the winner is...


    In the September issue of Vital Records News, we invited all of our readers to wish our Help Desk “Happy Birthday”. 

    A big thank you to all who participated in the drawing. We received over 40 greetings, well wishes and many expressions of thanks for the work of the Help Desk.

    The winner is Brian A. Rosaaen. He works at the Hennepin County Government Center issuing vital records documents.

    Using the new birth certificate worksheet

    In early October, the Office of Vital Records (OVR) released the “Worksheet for creating your child’s birth record” and “Instructions to register your child’s birth” for statewide use. The worksheet and instructions are now one document. See the Minnesota Department of Health Birth Registration Information - Forms webpage for the combined document.

    OVR requires all hospitals filing birth records to use the “Worksheet for creating your child’s birth record” and provide parents with the instructions as standard procedure. Using the same worksheet across Minnesota promotes data quality and integrity, and is an important step in creating the birth record and informing public health.

    Office of Vital Records in the Community

    Minnesota Nurse Practitioners Annual Conference, December 1-2, 2017, St. Paul, MN

    Association of Minnesota Counties Annual Conference, December 4-5, 2017, St. Cloud, MN.

    Birth Registration Training via Skype, Friday, December 15, 2017. To participate, email with 'Birth Reg 12/15/17' in the subject line.

    To contact the Office of Vital Records, click below