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

Miller-Matero LR, Knowlton G, Vagnini KM, Yeh HH, Rossom RC, Penfold RB, Simon GE, Akinyemi E, Abdole L, Hooker SA, Owen-Smith AA, Ahmedani BK. The rapid shift to virtual mental health care: Examining psychotherapy disruption by rurality status. J Rural Health. 2023 Dec 26. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12818. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Parchman ML, Stefanik-Guizlo K, Penfold RB, Holden E, Shah AC. Improving diabetes control in a Medicaid managed care population with complex needs. Perm J. 2023 Dec 20:1-6. doi: 10.7812/TPP/23.106. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Simon GE, Shortreed SM, Johnson E, Yaseen ZS, Stone M, Mosholder AD, Ahmedani BK, Coleman KJ, Coley RY, Penfold RB, Toh S. Predicting risk of suicidal behavior from insurance claims data vs. linked data from insurance claims and electronic health records. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2023 Dec 19. doi: 10.1002/pds.5734. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Ahmedani BK, Yeh HH, Penfold RB, Simon GE, Miller-Matero LR, Akinyemi E, Fallone M, Patel S, Beebani G, Hooker SA, Owen-Smith A, Knowlton G, Levin A, Eke-Usim A, Rossom RC. Psychotherapy disruption before and after the transition to virtual mental health care induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychiatr Serv. 2023 Oct 11:appips20230181. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.20230181. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Casey Lion K, Arthur KC, GarcĂ­a MF, Hsu C, Sotelo Guerra LJ, Chisholm H, Griego E, Ebel BE, Penfold RB, Rafton S, Zhou C, Mangione-Smith R. Pilot evaluation of the Family Bridge Program, a communication- and culture-focused inpatient patient navigation program. Acad Pediatr. 2023 Jun 22:S1876-2859(23)00228-0. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2023.06.021. Online ahead of print. PubMed

 

Research

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Latino families inform training for caregivers of people with dementia

Maggie Ramirez, PhD, and Robert Penfold, PhD, culturally adapt an online program.

Research

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Improving and advancing mental health care

KPWHRI researchers are contributing to better mental health care for people nationwide.

New findings

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Simpler models to identify suicide risk perform similarly to more complex ones

Models that are easier to explain, use could have better uptake in health care settings.

HCSRN conference

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Researchers present, connect at annual conference

The HCSRN conference is a venue for collaborative work to improve health and health care.