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Heath data is some of the most sensitive information out there, and modern life sometimes puts that information at risk of being exposed. Hackers could break into insurance company records and steal customer medical information. A hospital you’ve visited could experience a data breach. You could spit in a tube to find out about your ancestry, and a company could sell your genetic information to a third party.

Or, you know, someone could just go dumpster diving behind a hospital and find a treasure trove of valuable patient information.

Researchers conducted a “recycling audit” of five hospitals in Toronto between November 2014 and May 2016 and found that frequently hospitals improperly threw out sensitive patient information. All the hospitals had policies designed to get rid of confidential patient health information without potentially exposing it, along with shredders to get the job done. And yet, when researched collected hospital recycling three times a week over a four week period, they found a total of 2,687 documents with personally identifiable information, often documents like clinical notes and medical reports. They describe their findings in a new letter published in the journal JAMA.

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Image via Flickr Attribution Some rights reserved by chris.huggins

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