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Medical Records from New Mexico Hospital Found Scattered in Street

The New Mexico Department of Health is currently investigating how the private medical records of some of its patients came to fall from a truck during transportation from the hospital to a secure storage facility.

The records came from Turquoise Lodge Hospital, a rehabilitation center run by the New Mexico Department of Health that specializes in the treatment of parents and pregnant women who are recovering from substance abuse.

The hospital had arranged for patients’ medical records to be collected and transported to a new location for storage. The paperwork was collected from the hospital on Thursday August 30; however, during transit some of those records fell out of the delivery truck onto a busy Albuquerque street.

KRQE News 13 sent reporters to the scene who discovered medical records strewn along Avenida Cesar Chavez at I-25. Some of the paperwork had been collected by members of the public.

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The paperwork contained highly sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI), including patients’ names, their medical histories, billing information, and Social Security numbers.

The New Mexico Department of Health was notified about the incident and sent a cleanup crew to collect the remaining paperwork on Friday August 31, at least 12 hours after the records had fallen off the truck. It is currently unclear whether all the records have been recovered.

An investigation has been launched to determine why the medical records were not secured in transit and how they were able to fall from the delivery truck. At this stage it is unclear exactly how many patients have had their health information exposed.

When those individuals are identified, the New Mexico Department of Health will send out notification letters in the mail. A report will also be submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights and state authorities.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.