Why Is Patient Experience Healthcare’s Bridge Over Troubled Water?

The temperature was in the mid-nineties and the humidity was not far behind.  Nine miles into my run I was approaching the crest of the bridge crossing the bay, and I was leaning over the guardrail to catch my breath. I was dog-tired, dehydrated, and my feet felt like they had swollen to twice their normal size.

To my surprise, a state policeman, kitted out smartly in his pressed uniform, pulled alongside of me. “What are you doing on my bridge?”  He asked from the cool confinement of his air-conditioned patrol car, an undisguised tone of concern in his voice. To hear him I removed one of my earbuds; I had been listening to the local sports-talk radio station.

I saw my face reflected in his Ray Ban Aviator sunglasses.  Since I was trying to cross the bridge, I thought about asking him if his question was like why did the chicken cross the road, but he did not look like a chicken crossing the road kind of guy.

“Are you okay? You don’t look okay.”

“I’m fine. Why did you pull me over?” I asked. “I just heard on the radio a report saying there is a guy who looks like he may be ready to jump off a bridge.”

“I got several calls about a guy on the bridge who looked depressed. Are you thinking of jumping?”

“Am I thinking of jumping what?”

“Jumping off the bridge. Are you sure you are okay? You look depressed.”

“I think I look like I just ran nine miles.” I placed my right leg on the top guardrail to stretch my hamstring.  Below me a small armada of boats had dropped anchor and the passengers appeared to be having impromptu tail-gate parties in the middle of the bay.  Everyone was looking up at me, and some appeared to be filming, so I waved. A few of the people were yelling for me to jump.

I could hear the thwump-thwump of a television news helicopter as is hovered overhead, a parabolic microphone pointed in my direction. (I embellished a little to make for a better story, but it’s my blog.)

“Take your leg off the bridge, and back up slowly” the officer commanded as he moved slowly closer to me. “I was about to call for a police helicopter. Are you sure you are okay?”

To me the entire dialog was starting to sound like a bad Leonard Cohen verse. I was going to ask him if the helicopter would give me a ride back to our house in Ocean City, but he didn’t look like a give me a ride back kind of guy. If I continued across the bridge, home was only two miles away.  If he did not let me cross I had to double-back those same nine miles. “May I continue across?”

“No, you can’t do that from here.”

An interesting statement, You can’t do that from here.

I was analyzing a hospital’s website. There was a link on the homepage stating that if I clicked it I would be able to schedule an appointment.  It was right next to the link telling me that if I clicked it three times I could continue across the bridge and go home.

I clicked the scheduling link. The next webpage told me how much they wanted to help me schedule an appointment and how important my health was to them. The following webpage told me about all of the services I could schedule. The final webpage told me that if I wanted to schedule an appointment that I should call the hospital Monday through Friday between eight A.M. and five P.M.

The website’s scheduling webpage should have included 24-point bold disclaimer stating, You can’t do that from here.

Like trying to cross the bridge.

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