Chronic rheumatic diseases can severely compromise a patient's functional ability. These limitations are often better appreciated through a patient's self-report and a physician examination than through laboratory and radiographic assessments. Researchers are adapting the established health status questionnaires for non-English-speaking patients and for other rheumatic conditions besides rheumatoid arthritis. Rather than tailoring existing instruments for other diseases, some clinician investigators are developing entirely new disease-specific self-assessment questionnaires. Physicians are also addressing the subjectivity of their physical examination techniques. They are devising consistent and sensitive parameters that can be combined with health status questionnaires to monitor disease activity, gauge therapeutics, predict health services utilization, and predict work disability.