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The ISMA requests meeting to present your problems with electronic death registry
e-Reports, Jan. 24, 2011
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After seeing news reports and hearing the experiences of our members, the ISMA asks to discuss concerns with Indiana State Department of Health Untitled document

The Indiana Death Registry System (IDRS), mandatory Jan. 1,has frustrated grieving families, as well as physicians. A half dozen newspapers from Evansville to Fort Wayne have highlighted problems with the system, and the ISMA has heard from members experiencing delays in IDRS registration and a lack of response from the state’s help desk.

The ISMA regrets the fact that families in mourning have been caught in the middle of this system change-over. ISMA staff and leaders will present concerns to the appropriate state officials and press for answers to physicians’ questions. Staff at the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) expressed a willingness to work with us, noting they expect problems to drop off significantly over the next few weeks and months.

“We plan to meet with the ISDH to be sure staff there are aware of what new users of the system are experiencing and get clarification about the five-day notification process,” said Mike Rinebold, ISMA’s director of Government Relations.

Death certificates must be processed in five days. Physicians who miss the deadline face a class B misdemeanor and fine of up to $1,000, a provision the ISMA and ISDH want changed.

Revealing problems

A Jan. 9 story in The Indianapolis Star lists turnaround time to obtain a PIN for IDRS access as 24-48 hours. ISMA physicians advised, however, that two weeks to a month passed before they received their PINs.

“Registration was complicated; it took me two hours,” said ISMA Past President David Welsh, M.D., Ripley County health officer. “Then it took a month to get my PIN; I got it Oct. 29, after applying in September.”

Dr. Welsh added, “I asked a question using the help line last fall and no one ever got back to me with an answer.”

In Jasper, the ob/gyn office of Karin Gray, M.D., has e-mail documentation that staff applied for the registry July 22 and received a PIN on Aug. 2 – not the stated 48-hour turnaround.

But using the system after registration has caused even more frustration.

“I find it to be a very great burden,” said Fort Wayne’s Robert Musselman, M.D. “Filing for a simple death certificate takes a lot more time, a whole lot more than for banking online or ordering from Amazon.”

In Sullivan Family Practice with five physicians – as in many offices since January – filing for a death certificate has become a staff function. Practice manager Susan Helman said the process is “not user friendly at all.” It requires scrolling through multiple screens to enter data. After filing about a dozen certificates, she is more comfortable with the process, but longs to return to paper.

Seeking changes

The IDRS won’t go away; it was mandated by law. Therefore, the ISMA is committed to working with state officials to improve it, particularly in two areas: e-mail notifications and penalties.

How often do we all overlook e-mails? It happens. That’s why Rinebold is hoping for more than one reminder. “We’re concerned about one e-mail getting lost in a busy physician’s office and want to clarify whether physicians will receive only a one-time, one-day notice in every instance,” he said.

An even greater concern, and the subject of a resolution at the 2010 House of Delegates, is the class B misdemeanor penalty. Resolution 10-69 tasked the ISMA with seeking legislation to reduce the criminal charge to possible disciplinary action by the licensing board.

“Adding a criminal component seems a bit harsh,” Rinebold said. The ISDH agrees this needs changing; Sen. Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, is sponsoring HB 366 to reduce the penalty. “We also hope to add a grace period, moving compliance to 2012,” Rinebold added.

Continue reading ISMA Reports and Legislative News for further developments. See additional coverage on the ISMA website.

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