What is Healthcare’s Black Hole?

The temperature was in the mid-nineties.  Nine miles into my run I was approaching the crest of one of the many bridges that crossed the Clackamas River near Portland. 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.  (Getting older sucks, but it’s better than the alternative.)

To my surprise, an Oregon state policeman kitted out smartly in his pressed uniform and wide-brimmed hat, pulled alongside me. He rolled down the car’s window. “What are you doing on my bridge?”  He asked from the cool confinement of his air-conditioned patrol car.  There was an undisguised tone of concern in his voice. To hear what he was saying I paused Roy Orbison’s Running Scared and I removed one of my earbuds.

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 he had any ID to prove that he owned the bridge, but he did not look like he was in the mood to play games.

“Are you okay?” He asked me.  “You don’t look okay.”

“I’m fine. Why did you pull me over?” I asked. “Was I running too fast?” He was not amused by my attempt to engage him in meaningless banter.  “I just heard on the radio that a guy looked like he was ready to jump off my 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 my 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 of the guardrail to stretch my hamstring.

Eighty feet below me a small armada of boats had dropped anchor and the boaters appeared to be having impromptu tailgate parties in the middle of the bay.  Everyone was looking up at me, and some appeared to be filming, so I waved. I heard a few of the boaters yelling for me to jump.

I also heard the thwump-thwump of a television news helicopter as it hovered overhead, its parabolic microphone pointed in my direction. (I embellished my story a little to make for a better blog, but it’s my blog so I can write whatever I want.)

“Take your leg off my guardrail,” he ordered, “and back up slowly.” “I was about to call for a police helicopter and rescue divers. Are you sure you are okay?”

I was going to ask him if his helicopter would give me a ride home, but he didn’t look like a ride home kind of guy. If I continued across the bridge, my home was only two miles away.  If he did not let me cross the bridge 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.) There’s no place like 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 the services I could schedule. The final webpage told me that if I wanted to schedule an appointment I should call the hospital Monday through Friday between eight A.M. and five P.M.

The website’s scheduling web page should have included a 24-point, bold disclaimer stating, You can’t do that from here. Like trying to cross the bridge.

Healthcare is the only industry that requires you to have a phone to do what you want to do.


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