Robert Penfold, PhD

Robert Penfold

“I do research designed to improve real-world mental health care.” 

Robert Penfold, PhD

Senior Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

Biography

Robert Penfold, PhD, is a health services research and health policy expert whose work focuses on developing and testing strategies to optimize behavioral health care delivery and patient outcomes—particularly in children and adolescents. His research addresses practical issues, such as how to reduce unnecessary use of antipsychotic medications in youth. He also studies the effects of cost-control policies on how clinicians deliver care, how people use care, and how those changes can promote or worsen their health.

Dr. Penfold is a co-investigator in the Mental Health Research Network (MHRN), a resource for studies on mental health conditions ranging from autism to postnatal depression. He leads the MHRN’s child and adolescent scientific interest group. He is also investigating reasons why similar patients receive different mental health treatment, such as different medications, depending on where they live or receive care.

His other recent and ongoing projects include:

  • A Targeted Approach to a Safer Use of Antipsychotics in Youth (SUAY), a $10 million, five-year National Institutes of Health clinical trial that is developing and testing new ways to support clinicians and families in choosing safer treatments for behavioral disorders in youth age 5 to 17.
  • Assisted Identification and Navigation of Early Mental Health Symptoms in Youth. A National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)-funded clinical trial designed to increase the early identification and treatment of youth with mental health symptoms and complaints.
  • Automated Outreach for Depression, a NIMH-funded study to decrease premature dropout from depression treatment.
  • STAR Caregivers—Virtual Training and Follow-up, a National Institute on Aging funded clinical trial to improve the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia and reduce caregiver burden without the use of antipsychotic medications.

Dr. Penfold has extensive experience gathering and analyzing information from large health databases, including those of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Health Care Systems Research Network’s Virtual Data Warehouse. These data and analyses allow rapid information sharing among Kaiser Permanente Washington and participating sites, which improves patient safety and timely access to effective, cutting-edge therapies.

He has also conducted several novel pragmatic clinical trials using the Epic electronic health record system.  

Before joining KPWHRI in 2010, Dr. Penfold held research and teaching positions at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio; the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority; the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy; and most recently, at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Population Medicine and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute.

Research interests and experience

  • Mental Health

    Children and adolescents; anti-psychotics and anti-depressants; bipolar disorder, and depression

  • Health Services & Economics

    Comparative effectiveness; consumer-directed health plans; patient outcomes; costs of chronic illnesses; Medicare and Medicaid 

  • Biostatistics

    Space-time surveillance;  interrupted time series analysis

  • Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias

 

 

Recent publications

Coleman KJ, Yarborough BJ, Beck A, Lynch FL, Stewart C, Penfold RS, Hunkeler EM, Operskalski BH, Simon GE. Patterns of health care utilization before first episode psychosis in racial and ethnic groups. Ethn Dis. 2019 Oct 17;29(4):609-616. doi: 10.18865/ed.29.4.609. eCollection 2019 Fall. PubMed

Simon GE, Shortreed SM, Johnson E, Rossom RC, Lynch FL, Ziebell R, Penfold ARB. What health records data are required for accurate prediction of suicidal behavior? J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2019 Sep 16. pii: 5570544. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocz136. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Parchman ML, Anderson ML, Dorr DA, Fagnan LJ, O’Meara ES, Tuzzio L, Penfold RB, Cook AJ, Hummel J, Conway C, Cholan R, Baldwin LM. A randomized trial of external practice support to improve cardiovascular risk factors in primary care.  Ann Fam Med. 2019 Aug 12;17(Suppl 1):S40-S49. doi: 10.1370/afm.2407. PubMed

Schoenfelder Gonzalez E, Myers K, Thompson EE, King DA, Glass AM, Penfold RB. Developing home-based telemental health services for youth: Practices from the SUAY Study. J Telemed Telecare. 2019 Jul 25:1357633X19863208. doi: 10.1177/1357633X19863208. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Hartzler AL, Ralston JD, Hannan TA, Kelleher KJ, Penfold RB. Designing safer use of antipsychotics among youths: a human-centered approach to an algorithm-based solution. Psychiatr Serv. 2019 Jul 16:appips201800390. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201800390. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

 

research into action

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Healthy Hearts Northwest helps small clinics improve care

A new study shows how a little supplemental support can result in big gains, especially in managing patients’ blood pressure.

caregiving

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Training for caregivers of people with dementia: How to scale up

Dr. Rob Penfold leads pragmatic trial of new online version of proven program developed by UW colleagues.

advance care planning

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How can we make advance care planning easier for patients and families?

Dr. Robert Penfold talks about how his father’s death inspired him to work on advance care planning for people with mild cognitive impairment.

Read about it in Healthy Findings.

kpwhri in the media

Esketamine: How to assess new antidepressant’s efficacy

Bloomberg Businessweek, Feb. 5, 2019