When the Cost for a Municipality to Retrieve Vital Records Can Be 0 Dollars
Large and small municipalities are inundated with vital records requests, yet so many cities and towns need help with handling these documents. The vital records retrieval process is often inefficient, sucking up much of city hall workers’ time for relatively little return. The sheer volume of municipal records combined with the logistics of storing those documents to promote preservation while maintaining good organization is a tremendous challenge.
The solution? Digitizing vital records and storing those municipal documents in the cloud. When you add machine learning (ML) technology, efficiency rises even further. A cloud-based vitals record storage platform will lower the cost for a municipality to retrieve vital records. Costs such as record retrieval fees can be reduced or even eliminated in some cases thanks to the high-efficiency level that can be achieved. And it’s possible to reorganize that records room since municipal staff won’t need to access documents so frequently.
A Look at the Manual Vital Records Retrieval Process
The “old school” manual municipal records retrieval process is highly inefficient, but it’s how things have been done for decades. A citizen comes into city hall or town hall and submits a formal request for a vital record or municipal document, including one or more of the following.
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates
- Marriage licenses
- Fetal death records
- Real estate and property records
- Blueprints and property maps
Municipalities are required to keep these original documents on file for posterity. Once the formal request is submitted, the citizen may be asked to pay a municipal or vital records retrieval fee. The actual retrieval may be performed immediately or over a couple of days, in which case the citizen may be asked to return later.
A town/city hall staff member must go to the records room to physically retrieve the document. This can take some time, depending upon the organization level of the records room and the actual volume of records. Once the document is pulled, it must be safely stored if the citizen was instructed to return it.
The municipal staff must also put the document back into storage when all is said and done. They must also establish a protocol for keeping vital records safe outside the records room. They also need a timeframe and process for returning the document to storage, including in cases where the citizen never returns for the vital record.
It’s easy to see how manual vital records retrieval could be more efficient and efficient. And even with a municipal records retrieval fee, it’s a process that still carries a cost to the city or town.
The Challenges of Municipal and Vital Records Document Storage
The municipal and vital records storage situation has become increasingly untenable due to the sheer volume of records — documents that municipalities can never discard. Just 100 years ago, the volume of municipal documents was far smaller, so maintaining those papers in a records room was a viable, reasonable solution. But fast forward to the modern day, and we still have all of those documents from 100 years ago, plus hundreds of thousands more that must be kept for posterity. Cities and towns are increasingly confronted with limited space, and they’re left wondering how to maintain these vital records more efficiently. That’s where digitizing documents and cloud storage comes into play.
Digitizing Municipal Documents and Storing Vital Records in the Cloud
Digitization is the modern, more efficient solution and alternative to manual retrieval of vital records and other municipal documents. Data is captured using machine learning-driven optical character recognition (OCR) scanning technology. This can be used for all documents, from your typical 8.5-by-11 paper print-outs to large format documents such as blueprints and maps. Machine learning-powered OCR scanners are essential for efficient data capture because this reduces the error rate significantly while increasing accuracy and making the process more efficient overall. Once the text and images are captured, you have a searchable digital version of the vital records and municipal documents.
These digital vital records can be uploaded into a cloud storage platform. Some cities and towns may opt to make these vital records accessible to citizens via a public portal, eliminating the need for any assistance from municipal staff. This, in turn, eliminates the costs associated with vital records retrieval. In other cases, a city or town may opt to limit access to its cloud document storage database. Instead of accessing the documents directly on the cloud, citizens can submit a request in person at the city/town hall or online. Then, a municipal employee can retrieve the digital document from the cloud and email it to the citizen — a process that can take just a couple of minutes from start to finish. That’s a far cry from the time spent on manual records retrieval.
Digital documents with data captured using machine learning OCR technology are easily searchable, which is a big advantage, especially in cases where a citizen may not have all of the information needed for manual retrievals, such as the proper spelling of a name. You can search and filter using key terms such as names, dates, and locations.
The Cost of Digitizing Documents and Storing Vital Records in the Cloud
Cloud storage for vital records is also ideal, thanks to the scalability of this technology. Cloud platforms are infinitely scalable in both directions and typically, you’re only charged for the resources utilized — no more and no less. This makes cloud records storage platforms very affordable since you’re not stuck paying for unused resources and overhead, as is the case for an on-premise data center.
Cost is always a concern for municipalities, making scalability and affordability big selling points for those proposing this technology. The ROI can be significant for this type of vital and municipal records digital transformation project.
The cost savings from ending the manual records retrieval process often justifies the investment in digitizing documents and migrating that data into cloud storage. You can also make changes to your records storage room setup since staff will only need to access the original documents less often than was necessary when you were manually pulling records. Document digitization with cloud-based storage will also cut down on the costs associated with document storage. The cost to the city, town, or other municipality may be zero! Any fees charged by the city can fully cover the cost of data capture with machine learning, OCR scanning technology, and the cost of cloud storage.
The Right Technology for Digitization and Cloud Storage of Municipal and Vital Records
You need the right technology for the job if you’re going to maximize ROI. Some municipalities may purchase their machine learning-powered OCR scanning technology, while others may outsource this aspect of the project. The same goes for migrating the data to the cloud. Cities and towns may opt to establish a cloud data storage platform, migrate vital records data, and build an associated access portal. Others may choose to outsource this process.
At iTech, we help cities, towns, and other municipalities make the most of their data with the right technology for each municipality’s unique needs. This may entail OCR with machine learning technology, cloud data storage solutions, and beyond. At iTech, our team has the experience and technology to help you achieve your vital records retrieval challenges. We invite you to contact us today to discuss your municipality’s vital records storage situation.