Switching computer programs always presents challenges for any business or agency. But making such a major change in the middle of a pandemic has become a nightmare for health officials across the state.
The state of Indiana switched to a new online system at the beginning of 2021 to certify and issue death and birth certificates, replacing one that was more than a decade old.
But, according to a report by FOX 59 news, it took less than two weeks for funeral directors and coroners to report a significant backlog in the system.
At the recent Henry County Board of Health meeting, Health Department Administrator Angela Cox described the local problems for board members.
“DRIVE is an acronym for a computer platform implemented January 4,” Cox said Thursday. “The first three weeks, we were not able to issue any certificates at all. Persons who died Dec. 14 to Dec. 31, we’re still working to get those issued.”
FOX 59 reported the new system requires doctors, nurse practitioners and funeral directors to be registered. If they are not, there is no way for them to authorize a certificate.
The television station quoted Hancock County Coroner David Stillinger saying the problems have gotten to “near catastrophic levels.”
Stillinger also told the TV station doctors and funeral directors “had been informed for over a year that this system was coming.” He quickly added, though, in that year, COVID-19 has occupied much of their attention.
The glitch is creating extra layers of work for Cox and her team at the worst possible time, while COVID-19-related challenges remain at the forefront.
“If we are able to pull up a birth certificate, we have to do a minimum of three amendments to it before it can be issued,” Cox explained. “When it comes up, it has incorrect information on it. If you have to leave that screen to wait on a customer, you cannot pull it up again. It gets assigned to the state and can only be issued by the state.
“If a person is not in the system, we have to send the information to the state and they enter it,” Cox continued. “Previously they could back-enter information. Right now, we’re having to go back into our very antiquated LOTUS program to find things. Otherwise if we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t be able to issue those.”
Cox emphasized the problem was not just a local one.
“We’ve got a very large group of unhappy clients across the state of Indiana,” Cox said. “It’s obviously not just Henry County. Some things have been fixed and some things have not. Usually it’s a few days before the state can get back to you. It’s so backed up, most of the time we’re not getting any response with our health tickets. There have been so many glitches we are still waiting on them to fix. The doctors and the funeral directors have glitches on their sides, too.”
Cox said the problems have created a ripple effect beyond just health departments.
“The Social Security offices are not receiving information,” Cox said. “Birth records are part of information sent to Social Security and the auditor to get the card sent out for the baby.”
Henry County Health Officer Dr. John Miller said hopefully in a month or two, the problems will be resolved. In the meantime, patience is the best advice available to local residents waiting on these important documents.