Medical examiner and coroner (ME/C) offices sit at the nexus of forensic sciences and public health. These offices play a key role in the investigation of suspicious, unexplained, or unexpected deaths, dissemination of important data to public health entities, and communication with families of decedents. In the United States, many other criminal justice stakeholders—such as law enforcement, toxicology laboratories, courts, and Vital Statistics departments—contribute and request data important to medicolegal death investigation (MDI). Given the network of stakeholders playing a role in MDI, successful execution of ME/C tasks relies on proper case management, which enables secure and accurate aggregation, storage, and retrieval of information.
Electronic case management systems (CMS), or software-based systems that collect, structure, and store case-related data, provide significant benefits over traditional paper-based storage systems. These systems streamline the data sharing process by enabling users to input case data into standardized forms, request information, or rapidly share information with stakeholders. Standardized data entry allows for data aggregation and querying across multiple cases, allowing offices to quickly search across their entire database or identify important trends. Security and audit trail features help establish data continuity, even with personnel changes. Ultimately, CMS can enable ME/C offices—of all sizes—to improve performance on specific tasks within their death investigation workflow.
This landscape report provides medical examiners and coroners, supporting personnel, forensic laboratories, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, courts, and other stakeholders and end users with the following:
- Background information on electronic case management systems (CMS) and their integration into the death investigation process, including both commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products and internally developed CMS,
- Product details in the form of a landscape of representative COTS CMS products,
- Considerations for implementing a CMS, and
- Case studies illustrating best practices and lessons learned from incorporation of CMS into the death investigation workflow.
“When I started in the Medical Examiner community in ‘97, the world wasn’t so data-driven. Now the expectation is 'I want to know the answer to my question now.' A CMS provides you with the ability to have a good set of data and you define what you want to track to be able to answer a specific question on the fly. Elected officials want to stay elected and being able to get data relatively quickly is imperative.”
- Robert Zerby | Chief Medical Investigator, Monroe County Medical
Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence report was provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. This work was also supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Contract Number HHSM500201200008I, Task Order Number 200-2016-F-91567).
The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.