image of Dylan Bryant

Dylan Bryant, Bureau of Vital Records
Bureau chief and state registrar

Vital Records

System replaced with upgraded system
Impact: statewide

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Vital Records

Missouri's vital records broken workflow to be replaced with upgraded system: The Bureau of Vital Record is re-designing and consolidating the myriad of systems that have been built over the last 112 years into one fully-electronic, comprehensive system.

The Bureau of Vital Records (BVR) dates back to 1910 and is tasked with 19 separate services, including preserving and issuing the state’s birth and death records, maintaining a central marriage registry and so much more. Since its creation, technology has advanced without new investments in BVR. The amount of vital records continues to amass, freezing records in time as they are left in the original systems in which they were originally registered.

Dylan Bryant, the bureau chief of BVR and state registrar, and his team of 44 experts experienced first-hand the impact the dated systems had on vital records requests during the COVID-19 pandemic. He knew Missourians deserved better and his team was desperate for faster access to records as the volume and urgency of requests ticked up.

“When I found out that the backbone, or spine, of our system was created in the 70s, and we’re in 2023, I thought that those things usually don’t coordinate well when we are talking about technology,” said Bryant. “We are still using microfilm rolls for some records.”

Team members navigate through books, microfilm and even cards indexed in filing systems to find records that are not stored digitally. This can take anywhere from minutes to days to find records, and that translates to some seemingly-simple requests ultimately taking weeks to process. Recalling what it was when she first started with BVR, Pat Philbert shared that it wasn’t an easy process then, and still can take a lot of time now if the record was amended.

electronic machine

“Back then, we didn’t have the option of utilizing computerization,” Philbert shared. “We had to check index books to find certificate numbers to make the certified copies. There were a lot of cards you would have to go through to find records, or record numbers, so you could fulfill the requests.”

The funding received by BVR is being used to move those records to a more robust and electronic digital system. This system will allow staff to maximize their research time to help fulfill requests in a timelier manner, allow data to be submitted electronically into a single system, and facilitate seamless communication with local, state and federal agencies for reporting purposes. Mary Jo Dunn, another longtime employee with BVR, believes that requests that usually take a week or more, could now take a day.

“We have a team that is trying to get us into the 21st century," said Dunn. "Where everything will be all in one place, easier access, easy to review. You are searching here, you are searching there to try and find something. It’s all going to be in one place. Easier for everyone.”

Keeping his team in mind has been a top priority. Bryant is making sure that this process is team-led to guarantee a meaningful impact on their workflow.

“I want to ensure that we are there again and that we are looked to as a beacon of what the future should be for the world of vital records, and that is why I heavily invest in our team,” said Bryant.

“Knowledge can be power and if we understand what good looks like, we can be more apt to move in that direction, using the law and regulations as a guide, but also not being afraid of thinking outside of the box to find the best solution for all of our stakeholders and the citizens we serve.”

BVR issues over one million vital records, thousands of corrections and amendments to records, along with operating four call centers taking in 90,000 calls annually. In addition, BVR receives more than 60,000 pieces of mail each year.

“We work hard to understand that each one of these requests are real people, who have real stories and real lives,” Bryant said.

The new electronic system will result in an approximate five year ROI of $5 million dollars.