The New Mexico Department of Health is conducting an investigation into how the confidential medical files of some of its patients fell from a truck while being relocated from the hospital to a new storage facility.
The files were moved from Turquoise Lodge Hospital, a New Mexico Department of Health hospital specializing in providing rehab services to parents and pregnant women who are recuperating from substance abuse disorder.
The hospital had made arrangements for the collection and transportation of patients’ medical records to a new facility. The records were collected from the hospital on August 30, 2018 but during transport some of the paperwork fell out of the delivery truck on and were strewn across the street.
KRQE News 13 reporters went to the scene and discovered the medical documents scattered along Avenida Cesar Chavez at I-25. Many of the documents were picked up by members of the public who were able to view highly sensitive information of patients of the hospital.
The documents included highly sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI), such as patients’ names, medical information, billing information, and Social Security numbers.
The New Mexico Department of Health was informed of the incident and a cleanup crew was sent out to collect the documents on Friday August 31, around 12 hours after the documents fell off the truck. It is currently uncertain whether all the documents were retrieved. It is possible that some members of the public are in possession of some of the documents.
The New Mexico Department of Health is trying to ascertain why the documents were not secured in transit. At this point it is not clear exactly how many patients had their medical information exposed.
When those patients are identified, the New Mexico Department of Health will start notifying patients of the privacy breach by mail and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights and state attorney general’s office will also be notified.