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The doctor will see you eventually

Some practices, like Dr. Green's, pride themselves on running efficiently, and others are finding ways to streamline office-traffic flow and cut waiting time. "Patients' time is valuable. I think practitioners understand that more and more," says Andre W. Renna, executive director of a group of 14 gastroenterologists in Lancaster, Pa. He says even the term "waiting room" has a bad connotation. Many offices prefer "reception area" instead.

Some steps to reduce patient wait times are as simple as leaving a few "catch-up" slots empty each day or stocking the same supplies in the same place in every exam room. "That way, doctors don't have to stick their heads out the door and ask where things are. It saves a lot of time," says L. Gordon Moore, a family physician and faculty member of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a Cambridge, Mass.-based non-profit group that advises medical practices.

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