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Massachusetts’s Vital Records Going the Digital Way

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The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS), has decided to convert approximately 10 million vital records into digital images. This will enable three important things such as identity verification for Medicaid (MassHealth), an efficient way to store and retrieve the documents, and establishment of an electronic disaster recovery program.

The Register of Vital Records and Statistics for the commonwealth, Stanley E. Nyberg,, wants to implement an efficient and effective way to conduct searches pertaining to births. At present, the commonwealth collects, processes, validates, preserves and issues copies of birth, death and marriage records that have taken place in Massachusetts. RVRS also processes and collects core public health data to be used by DPH for health care policy and researchers studying the health of Massachusetts citizens.

About 5 million birth certificates 1935-1987, 4.5 million death certificates from 1935-present, and 500,000 amendments from 1935 to present are being documented under the vital records. These are both in the form of handwritten and typed documents with many of them being environmentally damaged. These documents will be converted into digital mode by the Data Bank through the use of latest tools and technology. The Department of Public Health's EMC/Documentum system will be responsible for the complete collection of images and information which will be delivered to the authorized users who can search, retrieve and print scanned images (depending on the level of security they have been granted).

Commenting on the initiative, DataBank's VP for Government Business Development Barbara Martin said that, “As the Department of Public Health for the commonwealth moves forward with this birth and death records digitizing project, it is just one more step towards the end result of cooperation and interagency collaboration that will establish Massachusetts as a leader in this space”.

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