Medical certification of cause of death
Training and skills development
To ensure that physicians can competently certify deaths in accordance with international guidelines and standards, they must receive basic training in death certification and understand the importance of good COD information.
Initial basic education on the principles and the importance for health of death certification, and instruction on how to complete a death certificate, as well as options for refresher training, should be provided at distinct phases for medical students, interns and practicing physicians.
Materials to support this training have been developed as part of a core curriculum for certifiers by the education and implementation committee of the Collaborating Centres for the WHO Family of International Classifications.
In addition, WHO has developed a self-teaching module on COD certification in the ICD 10th revision training package which is freely available on the WHO website.
The University of Melbourne has developed a generic curriculum that countries can to adapt to suit their curriculum requirements. It covers:
- Concept of underlying COD
- Guidelines for death certifications
- Death certification assessment
- Overview of ICD-10.
Aung E et al (2010). Teaching cause-of-death certification: lessons from international experience. Postgraduate Medical Journal,
The Pan American Health Organization self-paced course on properly completing death certificates for doctors is available at https://www.campusvirtualsp.org/en/launch-virtual-course-properly-completing-death-certificates-medical-doctors
Rampatige R et al (2013). Engaging physicians in improved cause of death certification: evaluation of an education intervention. The Lancet.
United States Centers for Disease Control Physician’s handbook on Medical Certification of Cause of Death.
Walker S et al (2012). An accessible method for teaching doctors about death certification. Health Information Management Journal.
WHO Family of International Classifications & International Federation of Health Information Management Associations (2011). Core Curriculum – Underlying cause of death coders including Learning objectives
The World Health Organization offers a free, online, self-paced course on the basics of death certification is available http://apps.who.int/classifications/apps/icd/icd10training/ICD-10%20Death%20Certificate/html/index.html
Action guide on improving the quality of COD data in hospitals
Provides eight key action areas to improve the quality of cause of death data in hospitals.
Publication date: April 2018
Resource type: CRVS technical guide
Related resources: Strategies for improving the quality of cause of death data in hospitals
Strategies for improving the quality of cause of death data in hospitals
This paper outlines the importance of accurate medical certification of cause of death, and provides eight strategies that hospitals can implement to improve the accuracy and consistency of cause of death data drawn from medical records.
Author: University of Melbourne
Publication date: April 2018 (update)
Resource type: CRVS best-practice and advocacy
Related resources: Action guide on improving the quality of cause of death data in hospitals