DHEC is the state’s official record keeper for vital information pertaining to births, deaths, marriages and divorces in South Carolina. Each of the 46 counties has a Vital Records office in the county health department, and together with the state office in Columbia, provides this essential service for all citizens in the state. Established under statutory authority, the Division of Vital Records provides for the correction, certification and issuance of all vital events including live births, deaths, fetal deaths, marriages, divorces and annulments, and induced terminations of pregnancy.
The Division of Vital Records is responsible for developing, maintaining and directing the statewide system of vital records, ensuring that the system provides legal documentation for citizens and reliable health data on a continuing basis. There are over nine (9) million original records contained in the “vault” in the central office of Vital Records. Each year, this division provides over 700,000 certifications of these events statewide. Five percent (5%) of these certifications involve very complex legal issues (court orders, amendments, legitimations, paternity acknowledgements, adoptions, etc.). By law, the State Registrar for Vital Records is the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Environmental Control who delegates this responsibility to the Director of the Office of Public Health Statistics and Information Services (PHSIS), who is the Assistant State Registrar.
Re-engineering Vital Record systems and processes began in 2001. The need for more integrated technical systems, coupled with the increased demand for vital events resulted in the development of a completed integrated Web-based system for processing vital events. A new era began January 1, 2004, with the rollout of the live WebBirth Module, which was the first active module of the South Carolina Vital Records and Statistics Integrated Information System. Today, all birthing hospitals in the state register live births electronically. Additional modules were developed and implemented for the receipting of fees and registration of all other vital records.
The WebDeath System was implemented in 2005 and allows for death registration to occur through the Internet. This system has improved the timeliness and quality of death registration. It enables participants of death registration to register death certificates with local and state registrars electronically.
Another component of re-engineering Vital Records involved improving service to our customers. As a result of the tragic events on 9/11, the number of on-site customers increased dramatically. In addition, the complexity of our services brought about by societal demands and increased national security concerns generated a huge demand for timely, expedient processing of various vital records. Supporting this, a comparison of activity/accountability measures revealed a 164% increase in the number of on-site customers between 2002 (18,049) and 2006 (47,682). A physical and operation redesign of the State Vital Records Office customer service area was completed in 2009. The expansion vastly improved the business environment in which on-site customers are served by providing additional seating space, eight (8) new customer service stations and better security for staff, as well as the confidentiality needed for customers to discuss private information with Vital Records staff in the processing of their requests.