The NBIE, a voluntary registry of specialized burn-care facilities that was founded in 1964, currently has 50 active participants representing 35 per cent of the nation's hospital beds for burned patients. Participating physicians submit information on the initial hospitalization of emergent and acute burn patients and, separately, on the reconstruction process for these patients. As of January 1986, a total of 94,594 patient's data are on file from 130 hospitals; 13,671 of these are reconstructive and 80,923 emergent and acute admissions. Information concerning new patients is submitted at a rate of about 6000 patients annually. The data are analyzed using INQUIRE, an original data retrieval system. Data on treatment methods and outcome have been used to establish baseline standards for the burned patient's care and survival. In addition, these data have been used to document institutional differences in mortality rates and indicate methods used by the more successful hospitals. The data also are being used to describe the long process of recovery from severe burns and to monitor changes in outcomes of burn accidents continually. The result of these analyses has been documentation of an overall improvement in survival and decline in hospitalization times at all levels of burn severity. Data also can be used with institution-specific data to look at organizational variables affecting survival. Use of this epidemiologic data allows prevention projects to be targeted at the groups at greatest risk. A newer application looks at the equity of the HCFA prospective payment system based on the DRGs assigned to burn severity. The NBIE is an example of how a voluntary, national registry, properly computerized and effectively managed, can contribute to resolving the problem it was established to study. The NBIE has been useful in increasing the understanding of health professionals and government decision makers of a complicated disease process. It has had a direct effect on the quality of patient care and on the process of controlling the incidence of burn injuries.