White Paper – Electronic Death Registry in Medicolegal Death Investigation

White Paper – Electronic Death Registry in Medicolegal Death Investigation


December 2023


The National Institute of Justice (NIJ)—in partnership with its Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCOE) at RTI International and the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—convened a virtual Medicolegal Death Investigation Data Exchange Working Group (MDI-Data-WG) beginning in September 2020. This working group was formed to: 

  • Document the types of data that are commonly exchanged with public health and public safety partners and determine collective usage points for medicolegal death investigations (MDIs); 
  • Provide recommendations on how to improve the naming process for emerging drugs; 
  • Guide the drug mapping/classification process; and 
  • Recommend needed enhancements to the operation of exchanging forensic data with other organizations. 

The goal of this whitepaper is to support policies and procedures within an organization, agency training on the importance of electronic death registration systems (EDRS) in medicolegal death investigation, and also to disseminate community awareness and collaboration efforts to improve how MDI data are exchanged and modernized. The audience includes practitioners, forensic laboratory and medical examiner/coroner leadership, and any interested entity that contributes to data exchange for death investigations. 

The EDRS allows death certificates in the United States to be completed electronically, which benefits among others, medicolegal death investigators, hospitals, funeral directors, insurance companies, vital statistics, criminal justice, researchers, and family/estate planning. Medicolegal death investigation offices use electronic case management systems to store data collected for death certification. Connecting case management systems with EDRS allows for efficient, automated, and immediate transfer of information; reduces errors; and eliminates repeated data entry. Further benefits are gained by using the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard to make connections. 

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.

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