Background In Switzerland, there is a dearth of information on the extent to which patients with chronic illnesses receive care congruent with the Chronic Care Model (CCM). To drive quality improvement programmes, it is necessary to have practical assessment tools in the country's own language to evaluate the delivery of CCM activities. Methods German translation and adaptation of the original Assessment of Chronic Illness Care (ACIC). We followed a sequential forward and backward translation approach. In a multidisciplinary committee review the original English version and the translations were compared, instructions and formats modified and cross-cultural equivalences verified. The second version was pre-tested and multidisciplinary group discussion led to the final version which aimed to create a comprehensive culturally adapted translation capturing the original idea of the items rather than a direct one to one translation. Results Difficulties encountered during the translation process consisted in the difference of health care settings and health care organization in Switzerland and USA.The adapted German version was delivered to a managed care organization in the city of Zurich to test the initial use for diabetes care. The average ACIC subscale scores were: organization of the health care delivery system: mean (m) = 7.31 (SD = 0.79), community linkages: m = 3.78 (SD = 1.09), self-management support: m = 4.88 (SD = 1.21), decision support: m = 4.79 (SD = 1.16), delivery system design: m = 5.56 (SD = 1.28) and clinical information systems: m = 4.50 (SD = 2.69). Overall, the ACIC subscale scores were comparable with the scores of the original testing. Conclusion After cultural adaptations the German version of the ACIC is applicable as a tool to guide quality improvement in chronic illness care in German speaking countries in Europe.