November 11, 2016

Pharmacist and drug economics expert Kai Yeung joins GHRI faculty


Dr. Kai Yeung specializes in translating pharmacy research discoveries to clinical practice and insurance design

Kai Yeung, PharmD, PhD, is both a pharmaceutical economist who appreciates hard data and a pharmacist who enjoys interacting with patients. Dr. Yeung recently joined the Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) faculty after completing postdoctoral work and a PhD at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy. Dr. Yeung’s expertise is in health economics. His latest work analyzed the impact of changing copayments for medicines.

“For my dissertation,” Dr. Yeung says, “I studied changes in prescription medication use after a health plan changed its copayments for drugs to incentivize patients to use drugs according to value.” The data came from a natural experiment, when Premera Blue Cross, a regional health plan, adjusted coverage for medications based on cost-effectiveness data.

“I found that when the health plan used this strategy, patients shifted their use away from lower value medications,” he says. “Health plan costs were reduced without affecting peoples' overall health.” This summer, this work was honored as the best student paper at the Vancouver Health Economics meeting in British Columbia. The findings have implications for preventive care, value-based insurance design, and policies for Accountable Care Organizations being created by under the Affordable Care Act.

Dr. Yeung’s background is exceptionally diverse. His experience in academic, public, clinical, and industry settings includes working as a visiting researcher, intern, or pharmacist at Allergen Pharmaceuticals, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, the Agency for Healthcare Research, and Kelley-Ross pharmacy in Seattle. “All my experiences have taught me the value of a broadly multidisciplinary approach,” he says. “The best patient outcomes come from considering how research results will affect clinical practice, payment structures, and the patient experience.”

At GHRI, Dr. Yeung will work on important issues regarding drug pricing and value-based incentives, including collaborating with Senior Investigator Denise Boudreau, PhD; Associate Investigator Rob Penfold, PhD; and Senior Investigator David Grossman, MD, MPH. Dr. Yeung’s interests in assessing health technology will also contribute to GHRI’s growing health informatics and health economics groups. Dr. Yeung says, “GHRI's access to high-quality pharmacy and medical data and its close connection to the Group Health delivery system will allow me to use my analyses to improve clinical practice."