In 2006, the first edition of a monitoring tool for the performance of the Dutch health care system was released: the Dutch Health Care Performance Report (DHCPR). The Netherlands was among the first countries in the world developing such a comprehensive tool for reporting performance on quality, access, and affordability of health care. The tool contains 125 performance indicators; the choice for specific indicators resulted from a dialogue between researchers and policy makers. In the 'policy cycle', the DHCPR can rationally be placed between evaluation (accountability) and agenda-setting (for strategic decision making). In this paper, we reflect on important lessons learned after seven years of health care system performance assessment. These lessons entail the importance of a good conceptual framework for health system performance assessment, the importance of repeated measurement, the strength of combining multiple perspectives (e.g., patient, professional, objective, subjective) on the same issue, the importance of a central role for the patients' perspective in performance assessment, how to deal with the absence of data in relevant domains, the value of international benchmarking and the continuous exchange between researchers and policy makers.