Health accounts provide a systematic description of the financial flows related to the consumption of health care goods and services. Their intent is to describe a health system from an expenditure perspective. But as more countries implement and institutionalise health accounts, there are increased expectations from analysts, policy makers and the general public alike for the more sophisticated information that can be gained through the greater volume of health expenditure data now available. Health accounts are increasingly expected to provide inputs (along with other statistical information) into improved analytical tools to monitor and assess health system performance. One high priority is to develop reliable, timely data that is comparable both across countries and over time. This is indispensable for tracking trends in health spending and the factors driving it, which can in turn be used to compare it across countries and to project how it will grow in the future.
Health accounts are thus used in two main ways: internationally, where the emphasis is on a selection of internationally comparable expenditure data, and nationally, with more detailed analyses of health care spending and a greater emphasis on comparisons over time. Health accounts are crucial for both of these uses.