December 2017 Vital Records News

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Vital Records News

December 2017

Minnesota testing national accreditation standards for vital records and health statistics

Minnesota is one of six jurisdictions participating in a Standards and Measures Beta Test for vital records and health statistics program accreditation conducted by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) and the National Association of Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS). The beta test starts this month and runs through June 2018. Other jurisdictions include Washington D.C., South Dakota, Wyoming, California, and Florida.

Testing the accreditation standards will help the Office of Vital Records (OVR) to strengthen its operational framework in order to better support its partners in data collection, vital event registration and certificate issuance. “The accreditation standards create a solid plan to organize and operate a vital records and health statistics office,” said Molly Crawford, State Registrar. “It will stretch us and help us assess where we have gaps and opportunities for improvement.”

One expected outcome of OVR’s participation is written documentation that will help guide the work of OVR staff as well as the partners who contribute to the Minnesota vital records system. OVR is gathering existing policies, procedures and evidence that the policies and procedures are in use; in addition, OVR is collecting material that demonstrates how OVR provides the support necessary for success of the statewide vital records system. Finally, OVR is gathering examples of participation in quality improvement projects, partnership engagement, and collaboration inside and outside of the Minnesota Department of Health.

Four years ago, PHAB and NAPHSIS developed a work plan for vital records accreditation, pairing the experience of PHAB in health department accreditation, with the content expertise of NAPHSIS, to develop a strong, credible program.  Seven key areas that reflect core functions and important operational elements are part of the proposed accreditation standards for vital records:

  • Registration—Assure the complete and timely registration of births and deaths occurring in the state.
  • Security—Provide security, privacy, confidentiality, and preservation of vital records; protect personally identifiable information from direct or indirect inappropriate disclosure to prevent fraud and identity theft.
  • Issuance—Issue certified copies of vital records.
  • Data Collection—Ensure complete data collection.
  • Data Transmission and Reporting—Provide timely vital records data; report statistical data.
  • Vital Records Workforce—Encourage a competent vital records/health statistics workforce in the state.
  • Administration and Management of the Vital Records Health Statistics Unit—Develop and maintain an operational infrastructure to support the performance of the program.

Accreditation provides a means for the vital records health statistics unit of a public health department to identify performance improvement opportunities, enhance management, develop leadership, and strengthen relationships with members of the community. Engaging in the accreditation process will challenge the program to think about its roles and responsibilities and how it fulfills them. The process will encourage and stimulate quality and performance improvement in the health department. 

In the coming weeks OVR will submit the existing policies, procedures and evidence that the policies and procedures are in use to PHAB. In late winter, OVR will entertain a site visit from PHAB representatives, which will include interviews with some external partners. In the spring, OVR and the other five jurisdictions will receive results of their accreditation exercises from PHAB. PHAB will also provide participating jurisdictions with strategies to achieve accreditation when the accreditation standards are finalized. Lastly, OVR and the jurisdictions will provide feedback about the measures and process and have input into shaping the final accreditation standards.

PHAB is a nonprofit organization and the national accrediting organization dedicated to improving and protecting the health of the public by advancing and ultimately transforming the quality and performance of public health departments, including tribal, state, county, and city departments. NAPHSIS is the national nonprofit membership organization that represents 57 state and territorial vital records and public health statistics offices in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support (OSTLTS) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) have funded the accreditation development activities.

The Minnesota Department of Health received PHAB accreditation in 2014. Other accredited public health agencies in Minnesota include:

  • Bloomington Public Health/Public Health Alliance of Bloomington, Edina, and Richfield - Bloomington
  • Dakota County Public Health Department - West St. Paul
  • Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department - Minneapolis
  • Meeker-McLeod-Sibley Community Health Services - Glencoe
  • Minneapolis Health Department - Minneapolis
  • Olmsted County Public Health Services - Rochester
  • Saint Paul - Ramsey County Public Health - Saint Paul
  • Washington County Department of Public Health and Environment - Stillwater

County Vital Records Offices Training

There are two County Vital Records Offices training opportunities in February 2018.

The Office of Vital Records (OVR) is offering a free pre-conference educational opportunity for vital records professionals the afternoon of Monday, February 12, 2018. OVR is still working out the agenda, speakers and registration process. Registration information for this MDH-OVR sponsored session will be out soon. 

OVR is also collaborating with the Minnesota Association of County Officers (MACO) Vital Records Admin Committee to deliver Vital Records Training for Issuance Officers on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 from 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. The training session is part of the 2018 MACO Annual Winter Conference held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Bloomington.

Topics to be covered include data practices; tangible interest; acceptable identification; security and fraud prevention; supporting documentation and record amendments, replacements and corrections; and MR&C tips for users.

Registration information is at 2018 MACO Annual Conference Information.

MR&C Tips

Birth and Fetal Death Records

Transposing numbers or entering data into the wrong field results requires time-consuming investigation, and then correction. Some common mistakes to avoid:

  • Pre-pregnancy and delivery weights – weight numbers in the wrong fields - results in data reflecting an unlikely weight gain or weight loss; 
  • Total Number of Prenatal Care Visits - checked as Unknown when the response to "Did mother receive any prenatal care?*“ was "No";
  • Date of First Prenatal Care Visit - date of birth entered rather than date of care prior to the birth;
  • Routinely entering Other or Unknown while completing data fields, e.g., selecting “Other” rather than selecting a city name from the menu, or not obtaining the records to confirm prenatal care;
  • Misspelled medical conditions.

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is requesting data earlier each year (and may release provisional birth data on a weekly basis), so timely, complete and valid birth record information is important. This data is an important source for identifying public health problems, monitoring progress in public health, allocating research and prevention funds and conducting scientific research.

Data items entered in vital records require careful attention. Take a minute to review the information entered on a page before leaving the page and filing the record to help avoid errors and additional work later. Facility staff receive notifications from the Office of Vital Records (OVR) to review unlikely or invalid responses in data items. When the facility returns the correct information, OVR updates the record. 

Death record social security information verification system


The Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Vital Records has received numerous calls from funeral establishments about the SSN verification status message that reads “SSA is currently in scheduled downtime – resubmitting”.


Verification of social security information such as decedent's name, date of birth, gender and social security number on death records occurs in real-time via an interface with MR&C and the Social Security Administration (SSA). As entry of a death record takes place, MR&C sends a secure verification request to the SSA Online Verification System and SSA returns the result within seconds. The “SSN verification status” result alerts funeral home staff to possible problems with social security information on a death record so that they can follow up with the person who provided the information about the decedent.

The “SSA is currently in scheduled downtime – resubmitting” message appears in the “SSN verification status” field when a system at SSA is taken down for maintenance.

SSA Online Verification System Downtime (CST)

  • Midnight Monday – 4 a.m. Tuesday
  • Midnight Tuesday – 4 a.m. Wednesday
  • Midnight Wednesday – 4 a.m. Thursday
  • Midnight Thursday – 4 a.m. Friday
  • Midnight Friday – 4 a.m. Saturday
  • 10:01 p.m. Saturday – 7 a.m. Sunday
  • 10:31 p.m. Sunday – 4 a.m. Monday

Death records filed during “downtime” hours will not have the social security information verified online. However, each morning, OVR submits social security information to SSA for all fact of death records filed within the previous 24 hours.

Office of Vital Records in the Community

Birth Registration 101

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

Seats are still available for this class. To register, email with Birth Registration 101 in the subject line.

Office of Vital Records holiday closures

The Minnesota Department of Health and the Office of Vital Records will be closed on Monday, December 25, 2017 and Monday, January 1, 2018 in observance of the Holidays.

We wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday season!

To contact the Office of Vital Records, click below