Starting Sept. 1, the state's funeral home directors and coroners will be required to use an S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control website to submit information for death certificates.
The electronic system, called WebDeath, was created by the DHEC in 2005. The state legislature passed a law June 18 aimed at making it easier and faster for families to get the death certificates they need for cremation, estates, bank accounts or collecting life insurance.
Before a death certificate can be certified by DHEC, information from several different places needs to be gathered and recorded on specific forms, Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen said.
A funeral home director submits information provided by the deceased person's family and, depending on the circumstance in which the person died, a physician or coroner provides his or her signature and an assessment of the death. A death certificate only becomes official after the information is collected and the papers are signed.
All the state's coroners already are using the system, according to DHEC spokesman Adam Myrick, and many area funeral home directors say they using it, too. The directors said the system is easy to use as long as their office has Internet access.
Several directors said the system will be even more effective if all physicians used it, too. Only about 28 percent of physicians submit information through WebDeath, Myrick said.
Edith Galloway, director of Chisholm Funeral Home in Beaufort, said Friday her business has been using the program for more than a year. She said her funeral home has to hand-deliver or mail certificates to physicians about half the time, which forces families to wait days instead of hours to obtain a certified document.
"If more doctors would get online, it would make life simpler," she said.
Only organizations approved by DHEC can use the website. Funeral directors, doctors and coroners are assigned user names, passwords and security codes, which act as an electronic signature, Myrick said. DHEC sets up the system and trains users; it also provides technical support.
The Beaufort County Coroner's Office has been filing certificates through WebDeath since 2007, Allen said Friday.
"It's very consumer-friendly," he said, adding that the site's best feature allows directors and physicians access to paperwork in as little as a day.
The system also prevents clerical errors caused by illegible handwriting or missing information.
"If you leave a field blank, it won't let you submit it," Allen said. "It has checks and balances built in for accuracy."
Myrick said about 60 percent of the state's death certificates are filed electronically.
Offices that file fewer than 12 death certificates a year or an individual who serves as an unpaid funeral director for a deceased family member or friend is exempt from the electronic filing requirement, according to the DHEC website.
Funeral directors or physicians not currently using the system can request training by calling 803-898-3630.