Clinical quality management in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) aims at reducing inflammatory activity and pain in the short term and damage and disability in the long term. In the "Swiss Clinical Quality Management in rheumatoid arthritis" (SCQM) project, which started in 1997, a measurement-improvement system with feedback reports allows the rheumatologists to follow their RA patients with the aim of improving the quality of outcome. Inflammatory activity is measured with the Disease Activity Score (DAS28) and the Rheumatoid Arthritis Disease Activity Index questionnaire (RADAI), damage with an X-ray score and disability with the Stanford Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ). The feedback is used by the individual rheumatologist to optimize the therapy of his/her RA patients. Beside the aim of improving the quality of treatment, the SCQM projects wants to build a Swiss cohort of RA patients, to improve the collaboration of rheumatologists in the clinic and in practice and to establish standards of treatment in RA. In this paper we describe the SCQM project in detail, we show two cases illustrating the usefulness of the SCQM in the management of individual RA patients, and we present the cross sectional analysis of the first 1223 RA patients included in the project.