Patient assessment in rheumatology is characterized by an important paradox: many extensively-characterized quantitative measures and indices have been developed for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), ankylosing spondylitis, vasculitis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and other rheumatic diseases. However, most regular rheumatology care is guided largely by qualitative clinical impressions, without such measures or indices or any quantitative data other than laboratory tests to assess patient status and/or quality of care. This paradox may be explained in part by regarding the development of measures primarily as clinical research activities, while viewing the application of measurements in regular clinical care as continuous quality improvement (CQI) activities. The development of measures has emphasized validity and reliability, but generally ignored feasibility and acceptability to patients and health professionals, both of which are needed for application in regular clinical care. A summary of the application of clinical measurement in patients with RA over 25 years between 1982 and 2007 at a weekly academic rheumatology clinic conducted by the senior author is presented as 20 often contemporaneous CQI cycles. These cycles include development of a user-friendly modified health assessment questionnaire (MHAQ); assessment of psychological status; monitoring of mortality outcomes; comparisons of joint counts, radiographic scores, and laboratory tests to the MHAQ; a 28-joint count; prospective study of the MHAQ to predict mortality when joint counts, radiographic scores, and laboratory tests are available; development of a multidimensional HAQ (MDHAQ) with complex activities; a fatigue scale; a self-report joint count; scoring templates; a computerized data management system; flow sheets to monitor MDHAQ status; visual analog scales as 21 circles rather than 10 cm lines; composite RAPID3 (rheumatology assessment patient index data) scores for 3 patient measures; and defining RAPID categories for high, moderate and low severity, and near remission. The latter cycles remain under study as ongoing CQI activities.