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VA'S VIDEO SYSTEM OFFERS VITAL INSIGHTS TO PATIENTS

It won't make the experience any more enjoyable, but having a better understanding of the open-heart surgery he is scheduled to undergo is making it easier for David Lawergren to deal with.

A recently installed video system allows patients at Veterans Affairs Medical Center to access more than 100 health-related videos at their convenience.

Lawergren, 77, has checked out those dealing with heart disease, but also ones on lung function and aging.

"They're very interesting -- and there's no advertising," he joked.

"It's a scary operation, but the videos have given me a greater understanding of my condition, and that gives me more confidence," said the retired stonemason from Erie, Pa., who served in both the Atlantic and Pacific on Navy submarine chasers during World War II.

Patients can order the videos -- which range in length from a few minutes to a half-hour -- at any time by using their bedside phone, said Barbara Bartholomew, a registered nurse who is a patient education instructor at the VA.

The systems have been installed in all six hospitals in the upstate VA system at a cost of about $80,000 each, and the Buffalo VA is believed to be the first area hospital to have an on-demand system, she said.

Staff members, including doctors and nurses, generally give the videos high marks, she said.

"The VA has always considered the patient a partner, so anything that helps understanding" is a benefit, Bartholomew said.

Six channels are reserved for patient use, and two others are available for staff members to view training videos.

The hospital also can capture information from satellite feeds, and soon staff members will be able to watch instructional videos on their personal computers, Bartholomew said.

Keeping the Promise is a regular feature of The Buffalo News.

e-mail: ternst@buffnews.com

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