The New Mexico Department of Health is trying to ascertain how the private medical records of some of its clients came to fall from a truck while being taken from the hospital to a secure storage center.
The records originated at Turquoise Lodge Hospital, a rehabilitation center run by the New Mexico Department of Health that is dedicated to the treatment of parents and pregnant women who are rehabilitating from substance abuse.
The hospital had put in place a system for patients’ medical records to be gathered and taken to a new location to be stored. The paperwork was picked up from the hospital on Thursday August 30; however, during while on the move some of those records dropped from the delivery truck onto a public Albuquerque street.
KRQE News 13 sent news reporters to the street where they found the files scattered strewn along Avenida Cesar Chavez at I-25. Some of the paperwork had been gathered up by passers by.
The paperwork included highly sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI), including patients’ identities, their medical records, billing details and Social Security numbers.
The New Mexico Department of Health was alerted about the incident and hired a cleanup crew to gather the remaining paperwork on Friday August 31, at least 12 hours after the records had dropped from the truck. It is currently unknown whether all the records have been rescued.
A review has been initiated to deduce why the medical records were not kept completely safe during transit and how they could fall from the delivery truck. It is currently unclear exactly how many patients have had their health information affected.
When those people are identified, the New Mexico Department of Health will issue notification letters via the mail. A report will also be sent to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the relevant State bodies.