Waiting times in specialist medical care are difficult to reduce owing to the fast-growing demand with supply lagging behind. These waiting times were the subject of a conference of this Journal, where experts from different backgrounds assessed the problems and discussed promising ways of coping with them at micro, meso and macro level. In the first category, a system developed in Leiden University Medical Centre was presented that provides insight into the expected waiting time per disease category, elucidates the bottlenecks in practice and supports the quality of care and the planning of patient flows. At the meso level, the discussion addressed how the differences within and between institutions and within and between regions may be reduced; this may be done, for instance, by better spread of the work load. This offers a better contribution to a structural solution than extra-regular initiatives. The conference finally discussed the importance of the current shift of important (control) tasks from the government to insurers. Those present expected that stimulation of regional initiatives of hospitals and health insurers by means of more money and latitude, allocated by the government and under its control (inspection), offers the best opportunities to shortening of the waiting lists and improvement of the quality of care.