Measuring healthcare expenditure: different methods, different results

May 31, 2017 | Journal Article

Authors: Conor Keegan , Sheelah Connolly , Maev-Ann Wren
Irish Journal of Medical Science


Accurate information on healthcare expenditure is essential; however, a number of issues arise when healthcare expenditure is being measured. Traditionally healthcare expenditure data in Ireland have been limited, especially data that facilitate comparable analysis through time and across particular programmes or services. Recently however, a major development in Irish healthcare expenditure estimates was the publication of Irish healthcare current expenditure estimates for 2013 according to the international standard of the OECD System of Health Accounts (SHA).


The aim of the analysis presented in this paper is to examine how alternative methodologies for measuring healthcare can influence the estimate(s) of healthcare expenditure.


The methods and results (in terms of healthcare expenditure) of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) application of SHA methodology will be compared and contrasted with an alternative methodology for measuring healthcare expenditure developed by Wren et al.


The two approaches to measuring healthcare expenditure in Ireland reached a very similar figure for total current healthcare expenditure in 2013. However, there were considerable disparities in the components of expenditure.


There is no one absolute definition or estimate of healthcare expenditure, and different methodological approaches to estimating expenditure will likely yield different results. Therefore, care is required when assessing healthcare expenditure to ensure that there is a clear understanding about what is and is not included in the estimate.

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