Israeli Ministry Says 'Do Not Disturb' Aprons for Nurses Would Cut Medication Errors

Recommendation follows studies in the United States and Britain, where the aprons have come into use over the past two years.

Hospital nurses should wear special aprons when handing out medication that bear the words "Distributing medication, please do not disturb," the Health Ministry says. The move is designed to reduce the risk that patients would receive the wrong medicine.

The recommendation follows studies in the United States and Britain, where the aprons have come into use over the past two years.

A study in Britain showed that the number of times a nurse was disturbed while handing out medicine declined from six to five. In a study at a hospital in Derby, nurses made 10 percent fewer errors when they were wearing the aprons.

The Health Ministry has also distributed a kit to hospitals and health maintenance organizations aimed at reducing medication errors.

"The kit contains guidance on how to avoid errors; it recommends that staff use the apron and observe whether the number of distractions declines," the ministry said.

A study at Assaf Harofeh Hospital has shown that 12.7 percent of patients brought to the hospital by intensive care ambulances and given medication suffered errors by the ambulance team and 36.1 percent in the emergency room.

In 2007, in preparation for the opening of a Health Ministry department for patient safety (which was not established ), experts estimated that there are seven mistakes for every 100 hospitalization days in internal-medicine departments in Israeli hospitals.

Meanwhile, a first-of-its-kind study has been launched by the Health Ministry's quality control director, Dr. Anat Aka-Zohar, to study the culture of dealing with mistakes at hospitals. The results will remain confidential.

In a questionnaire distributed at hospitals recently, medical teams were asked to discuss the attitude toward errors at their institutions. They were asked whether their superiors ask them to administer care too quickly and whether junior staff members feel comfortable pointing out their superiors' mistakes.

Prof. Yoel Donhin, head of patient safety at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, says he has his doubts about the questionnaire's reliability. Still, he doesn't want to keep the results confidential.

According to Donhin, not publishing the results "utterly contradicts the concept around the world of the culture of patient safety."