The development of outcomes research was reviewed, and the application of outcomes research in occupational health was considered. Interest in the field has grown due in part to concerns over health care quality and cost. Only recently has the impact of outcomes research been directed toward occupational health concerns. Studies of treatment in work related musculoskeletal conditions have been at the forefront of occupational health in addressing more global outcomes. The increased interest in applying managed care techniques to persons filing for workers' compensation has stimulated a need to identify medical and other interventions that will be most effective for controlling costs and minimizing disability. Selection of the theoretical model for use in a particular situation, collecting data, selecting measurement tools, and performing analysis, and the application and limitations of results were discussed. The authors also consider practical implications for a study of carpal tunnel syndrome, increased focus on working populations and work related outcomes, the development and standardization of worker and workplace specific measures of health related quality of life, the expanded use and refinement of work relate administrative databases, nonexperimental activities related to occupational outcomes research and the scientific principles guiding them, and the need for greater collaboration within outcomes researchers and a greater implementation of the results of their studies.