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07-14-05 Paperless health records coming soon

By Shelley Grieshop

  Health officials locally and statewide hope to handle all vital statistics information electronically in the near future.

  Recording, indexing and archiving of births and deaths via digitization will make updating more efficient and provide security to prevent identify fraud, state and local officials say.
  "They are (state officials) currently working out the bugs," Denise Brown, Mercer County Health Department registrar, told board members during Wednesday's meeting.
  Brown, who recently attended a workshop on the subject at the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) in Columbus, said death records, for example, would trail electronically from local physicians and/or coroners to funeral directors, then on to county health officials.
  A certified paper copy of the death certificate would be created by county officials before forwarding the digital information to Columbus, she explained.  The digitalization of records is expected to be complete by 2007, Brown added.
  An estimated 800,000 certified birth and death certificates are issued annually from state and local registrars, according to the ODH.
  Brown told board members she would like to check out the possibility of accepting credit cards for the fees charged to the public for certified vital statistic copies.
  "I'm not sure if it's a good thing or not, she said.
  The county would have to pay a monthly fee to the bank in order to accept credit card payments. Brown and board members took no action but agreed to review the idea further.
  Currently, the county charges the public $15 to receive a legal copy of a birth or death certificate. The county retains $7 of the fee and the state gets the rest. The state is raising the fee by $1.50 effective Oct. 1, with the excess monies to fund domestic violence shelters throughout Ohio.
  Birth and death certificates also can be obtained online from the Ohio Department of Health at The certified copies cost the same online but can take four to six weeks for delivery.
  For faster delivery, the state contracts with online service, VitalChek, which rushes delivery of birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates for a much higher fee. At the low end, a certificate can be obtained in 10 to 14 days through VitalChek for $24.95; the costliest would be an overnight delivery for $39.70.
  Mercer County sanitarian Chris Miller reported a dead bat was recently brought in by a Coldwater man for testing purposes and was later determined not to be rabid. The man apparently found the bat alive at a farm in the New Weston area and was either scratched or slightly bitten when he tried to retrieve it. The bat died after arriving at the man's home south of Coldwater, Miller said.
  "He said it wasn't acting right and since the animal had human contact we decided to have it tested as a precaution," Miller said.
  Rabies is much more common in northeast Ohio than the local area, Miller explained.
  "We've not had any animals test positive for rabies since I've been here the last three years," he added.
  In other action, board members:
   Approved an increase of $2,899 for equipment from SWIPERS (Secure Wireless Inventory & Pharmaceutical Emergency Response System) from Atlantic Management Center Inc. of Falls Church, Va. The county has already received the base unit for the portable wireless equipment used for off-site inoculations and data storage and distribution. Hardware for the SWIPERS equipment has not yet arrived.
  The base unit and hardware are being obtained with funds from a bioterrorism grant from the state. The base unit cost is $13,573.
  Although the equipment can be used for projects such as off-site clinics, it was specifically designed to aid health officials in the event of a bioterrorist attack.
   Approved several travel plans for July and August for trips to be taken by various staff members to workshops and other educational seminars -- most in Columbus.


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