The quality of routine mental health care is not optimal, it can vary greatly from region to region and among providers; in many occasions, it does not correspond to the standards of evidence-based mental health. To bridge this gap, the promotion of a systematic use of the information available for quality assurance would be most helpful, but measuring the quality of mental health care is particularly challenging. Quality measurement can play a key role in transforming health care systems, and the routine measurement of quality, using clinical indicators derived from evidence-based practice guidelines, is an important step to this end. In Italy, the use of clinical indicators is still sporadic: over the last 5 years only three projects have been aimed at analysing, in a structured way, the quality of care in severe mental illness, and two of these were led by the Italian Society of Psychiatric Epidemiology. Not only in Italy but also at global level there is an urgent need for the implementation of mental health information systems that could lead to a substantial improvement in information technology. Once this has been achieved, a common set of clinical indicators, agreed upon at the regional and national level and useful for benchmarking and for comparing mental health services, could be defined. Finally, using the implementation strategies, a system of quality improvement at both regional and local levels will be built.