The Office of the Medical Examiner (OME) is a statewide system for investigation of sudden and unexpected death in Utah. OME, in the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), certified over 2000 of the 13,920 deaths in Utah in 2008.
Information from OME death investigations is currently stored in three separate UDOH data silos that have limited interoperability. These three electronic data systems include death certificates, medical examiner investigations, and laboratory results. Without interoperability, OME staff is required to enter the same data into multiple systems. In addition, the process of requesting laboratory analysis and receiving results is paper based, significantly slowing final cause of death determination in a majority of cases.
Epidemiological studies and surveillance activities are hindered by the lack of systems integration in UDOH and often require retrospective data linkage. As an example, in 2005, CDC and the UDOH reported that deaths in Utah caused by drug poisoning from non-illicit drugs had increased fivefold from 1991 to 2003.1 This significant finding relied on retrospective linkage of death certificates, medical examiner records, and toxicology results to describe the problem.
In 2008, funding from a bioterrorism grant from the US Department of Homeland Security was secured to support development of a unique, integrated system for medical examiner and death certificate data.
The objectives of the Utah Medical Examiner Database (UMED) project are:
- To provide a single point of entry for medical examiner pathologists and staff to manage investigation information.
- To develop an operational system that links death certificate, medical examiner, and laboratory data in real time as a resource for epidemiology and public health surveillance.