Kai Yeung, PharmD, PhD


“My work helps to maximize the benefit to society for every dollar spent on health care.”

Kai Yeung, PharmD, PhD

Assistant Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute


Kai Yeung, PharmD, PhD, is a pharmacist and pharmaceutical economist with expertise in patient medication-use behaviors, insurance design, and outcomes research. His objective is to develop and evaluate incentives to encourage high-value use of health care services. Dr. Yeung has conducted research evaluating policies focused on specialty drug access, value-based insurance design, the consequences of insurance switching, and financial incentives. He combines applied econometric and cost-effectiveness analysis tools with a clinical understanding of prescription drugs and health insurance design to gain new insights in these areas.

Dr. Yeung has a line of research on designing and evaluating policies that align patient prescription drug out-of-pocket costs with estimated value using cost-effectiveness analysis. He has used econometric methods to quantify the impact of a value-based formulary on patient medication-utilization behavior, health outcomes and health care expenditures from patient and health care payer perspectives. For this work, Dr. Yeung successfully competed for two research grants: a multidisciplinary research training grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a health services research dissertation grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Different parts of this project were recognized by the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research 2014 and 2015 annual meetings as the best student podium presentation award, and the Vancouver Health Economics Methodology 2016 meeting as the best student paper award. Dr. Yeung continues to innovate in the generation and evaluation of this type of benefit design.

Dr. Yeung received his PhD in pharmaceutical economics from the Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy, and Economics (CHOICE) Institute at the University of Washington and his PharmD from the University of Southern California. During his PharmD training, Dr. Yeung cultivated a broad perspective on the expanded use of evidence and analytics in decision-making, giving him experience in working with a diverse group of health care stakeholders, including:

  • patients (through the practice of clinical pharmacy),
  • health care payers (through Kaiser Permanente Drug Information Services),
  • federal agencies (through AHRQ and U.S. Food and Drug Administration),
  • professional organizations (through the Academy for Managed Care Pharmacy), and
  • international technology assessment organizations (through NIH and Clinical Excellence, UK).

Research interests and experience

  • Health Services and Economics

    Pharmacy benefit design, applied econometrics, healthcare costs, value-based insurance design, cost-effectiveness analysis, behavioral economics, alternative payment models, health policy evaluation

  • Medication Use & Patient Safety

    Pharmacoepidemiology of opioid use, identification of early onset Alzheimer’s disease

  • Behavior Change

    Design and evaluation of incentives for medication adherence

  • Preventive Medicine

    Patient and physician shared savings models to incentivize healthy behavior

  • Addictions

    Prevention and treatment

Recent publications

Yeung K, Barthold D, Dusetzina SB, Basu A. Patient and plan spending after state specialty-drug out-of-pocket spending caps. N Engl J Med. 2020 Aug 6;383(6):558-566. doi: 10.1056/NEJMsa1910366. PubMed

Dieleman JL, Cao J, Chapin A, Chen C, Li Z, Liu A, Horst C, Kaldjian A, Matyasz T, Scott KW, Bui AL, Campbell M, Duber HC, Dunn AC, Flaxman AD, Fitzmaurice C, Naghavi M, Sadat N, Shieh P, Squires E, Yeung K, Murray CJL. US health care spending by payer and health condition, 1996-2016. JAMA. 2020 Mar 3;323(9):863-884. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.0734. PubMed

Zhang J, Haynes K, Mendelsohn AB, Marshall J, Barr CE, McDermott C, Brown J, Kline A, Kenney J, King KJ, Holmes C, Yeung K, Barron J, Yun H, Lockhart CM. Capture of biologic and biosimilar dispensings in a consortium of U.S.-based claims databases: utilization of national drug codes and healthcare common procedure coding system modifiers in medical claims. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2019 Dec 4. doi: 10.1002/pds.4934. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

McCurry SM, Von Korff M, Morin CM, Cunningham A, Pike KC, Thakral M, Wellman R, Yeung K, Zhu W, Vitiello MV. Telephone interventions for co-morbid insomnia and osteoarthritis pain: the OsteoArthritis and Therapy for Sleep (OATS) randomized trial design. Contemp Clin Trials. 2019 Oct 12:105851. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2019.105851. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Yeung K, Morgan SG. Should national pharmacare apply a value-based insurance design? CMAJ. 2019;191(29):E811-E815. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.181721. PubMed


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Which prescription drug policies control patient costs?

NEJM study: Caps on out-of-pocket costs for specialty drugs reduce patient spend by 32%

Managed Healthcare Executive, Aug 5, 2020