The changing healthcare environment has created a sense of urgency for continuous innovation in clinical care processes. Managers and clinicians are investing unprecedented funds and energy in the development of various clinical process innovations (CPI) such as clinical pathways, electronic workstations, and various forms of information technology. While increasing attention has been paid to the development of such initiatives, our understanding of how best to disseminate and ensure their use is limited. In this first of two articles dealing with the dissemination and use of CPI in integrated delivery systems, we present a "life cycle" model of the dissemination process and suggest opportunities for managing CPI. The management of CPI requires more than just an understanding of the factors that may facilitate or impede its implementation and use. Managers require an understanding of the actual process so that they can assess the specific implementation stage at which the organization is presently operating, and design appropriate interventions that can affect the process. A future article will identify the factors that facilitate and inhibit the process and suggest some intervention strategies.