Medicine has traditionally focused on relieving patient symptoms. However, in developed countries, maintaining good health increasingly involves management of such problems as hypertension, dyslipidemia, and diabetes, which often have no symptoms. Moreover, abnormal blood pressure, lipid, and glucose values are generally sufficient to warrant treatment without further diagnostic maneuvers. Limitations in managing such problems are often due to clinical inertia-failure of health care providers to initiate or intensify therapy when indicated. Clinical inertia is due to at least three problems: overestimation of care provided; use of "soft" reasons to avoid intensification of therapy; and lack of education, training, and practice organization aimed at achieving therapeutic goals. Strategies to overcome clinical inertia must focus on medical students, residents, and practicing physicians. Revised education programs should lead to assimilation of three concepts: the benefits of treating to therapeutic targets, the practical complexity of treating to target for different disorders, and the need to structure routine practice to facilitate effective management of disorders for which resolution of patient symptoms is not sufficient to guide care. Physicians will need to build into their practice a system of reminders and performance feedback to ensure necessary care.