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The Importance of Data to the MDI Community and Stakeholders

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Many stakeholders rely on medicolegal death investigation (MDI) data to support efforts that help save lives and promote justice. These stakeholders include federal, state, and local government agencies as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations. The data supports efforts to detect emerging health threats, monitor the health and safety of the public, ensure equal justice across jurisdictions, and conduct sound forensic science. For federal, state, and local agencies, MDI data also supports program development as well as policy and rule-making decisions. Federal agencies that utilize the data are the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), and many others.

The method to capture and store information collected during an investigation varies from sophisticated electronic case management systems (CMS) to paper file-based systems. Surveys suggest that most larger jurisdictions as well as many mid-sized and smaller offices have some form of a CMS. There are likely many commonalities in the information stored in the CMS, such as what is recorded on the death certificates (e.g., decedent identity, cause of death, date and time of death). However, the data may be structured and coded in different ways. This complicates comparing or aggregating information across jurisdictions. In some offices, typically in smaller jurisdictions, information is collected and stored in paper files. Others do not systematically store the information and rely solely on the death certificate as the record of death. Recent efforts to help support medical examiners and coroners to more efficiently and uniformly collect and report information include working to establish what data to collect, how to exchange the data, and ways to aggregate and visualize the data.

Date Created: August 5, 2021