The American way of death data

The CDC is using emerging IT tools to improve the way mortality data is reported, collected and used.

Shutterstock image (by wavebreakmedia): doors opening to data streams.

While Benjamin Franklin famously said the only sure things in life are death and taxes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to make data serve both.

Information about mortality is valuable to governments in many ways, from tallying what caused it, updating tax and voter rolls and other basic functions of governmental housekeeping.

Death registration is also frustratingly difficult to gather accurately and efficiently nationwide because it can come from an almost dizzying array of sources, including funeral homes, physicians, medical examiners, coroners, and local and state health departments.

The CDC has been working to make gathering mortality data across the country easier, more secure and efficient under a program called the CDC Surveillance Strategy.

The initiative, announced in February 2014 is aimed at accelerating use of emerging IT tools and other efforts across public health organizations to help detect and monitor disease, injury and collect other crucial data. Specifically, it calls for modernizing and transforming the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) into one capable of supporting near real-time public health surveillance, including mortality data. The strategy set a performance objective of having 80 percent of death reporting performed electronically within one day in at least 25 states by 2016.

Paula Braun, a data scientist with Charlottesville, Va.-based consulting firm Elder Research who has been embedded at the CDC since last December under its Entrepreneur in Residence program, said she sees the agency on the right track, citing an upward trend from 2011 when 10.6 percent of reporting was within 10 days, to 2014, when 30 percent reported in 10 days.

‘A modernized death reporting system’

Gathering accurate and timely information about the deceased -- including cause of death, surviving relatives and basic identification information -- is a scattered process, with data flowing from morticians, doctors and others to a wide array of state systems, according to Braun.

Braun is helping CDC devise better electronic death registration systems support so the agency can hone its analytics and predictive modeling capabilities to assist federal agencies that depend on mortality data, such as the Social Security Administration and Treasury Department.

An improved electronic death registration system would result in:

  • Faster reporting of final annual mortality data.
  • Real-time surveillance of deaths of public health importance.
  • Quick matching with birth certificates, assuring that birth certificates of people who recently died are not issued to others for fraudulent purposes.

In the coming months, Braun wants to have some basic plans drawn up for a renovated national system.

“Within the next 90-120 days, we hope to have the conceptual roadmap and skeleton for the IT infrastructure for a modernized death reporting system,” she said.

Braun is looking to set up trials of several reporting systems around the country to test ideas. She has extended her initial year-long stint at CDC under the entrepreneur program to work on the issue beyond the end of the year.

Any national mortality reporting system would be dependent on local and state health departments, she said. Their electronic death registration systems are uneven, ranging from state-of-the-art technology to basic data processing capabilities, including some paper-based operations.

And there are a lot of them -- the 50 states, five U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, and an independent system for New York City.

Braun is working to develop a standard interface for the mortality data repository, with help from the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems. The national nonprofit organization represents state vital records and public health statistics offices, making it a logical point of contact for the program, as well as a thought-leader for health IT, Braun said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.