Caring for patients with chronic illness in an era of cost constraints and performance monitoring has led to a sharp growth in "disease management" efforts by health systems utilizing internal innovators or outside firms. This paper describes surveys and site visits of the chronic disease management activities of 72 programs nominated by experts in the field of chronic illness care as being particularly innovative and effective. The survey and analysis were guided by a Model for Effective Chronic Illness Care derived from a process of literature synthesis and expert review. The model proved to be useful in describing the characteristics consistently shared by successful programs, and the surveys indicated common barriers to further expansion of innovative pilot programs. The survey indicated that most of the nominated programs were limited in their effectiveness and reach by their reliance on traditional patient education, rather than modern self-management support, poor linkages to primary care, and reliance on referrals rather than population-based approaches.