The British Isles Lupus Assessment Group (BILAG) index is a computerized index for measuring clinical disease activity in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), which was developed according to the principle of the physician's 'intention to treat'. The index allocates separate alphabetic scores to each of eight organ-based systems; a total score is not calculated. This study demonstrated good between-rater reliability for the BILAG index for each organ-based system. There was no evidence of bias between observers. The BILAG index had good overall sensitivity (87%) and specificity (99%) when compared with the 'gold standard' criterion (starting or increasing disease-modifying therapy). There were high positive predictive values overall (80%), and for each organ-based system, with the exception of the neurological system.