The German Ministry of Health has granted since 1992 the institution of 21 multipurpose arthritis centers in 21 regions of Germany to improve the integrated care for patients with chronic rheumatic diseases. To coordinate and combine their efforts the supported rheumatic centers have joint together into a model cooperation. The basic founding for all centers aim to advance the interdisciplinary care network inside the centers, to elaborate appropriate measures of audit, to test new modalities for better care and to advance post-graduate and continuing medical education. In addition, continuing funding supports individual projects (n = 5) and since 1994 in 5 of the centers the German Ministry of Research and Technology granted the institution of integrated rheumatological research projects. The development and effects of the multipurpose arthritis center programme is evaluated by the Scientific Institute of the German Medical Association. The successful structural development of the centers and the first results of the joint efforts of the model cooperation (recommendation for surveillance of treatment with long acting antirheumatic drugs, basic documentation, data set for documentation of rheumatological out-patients) shows the promising outcome of the programme.