Robert Penfold, PhD

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

Robert Penfold, PhD

Associate Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

Biography

Robert Penfold, PhD, is health services research and health policy expert whose work focuses on developing 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 is also interested in understanding how cost-control policies change the way clinicians deliver and people use care and how those changes have both positive and negative effects on 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 child and adolescent focus group within MHRN. Dr. Penfold is also investigating reasons why similar patients receive different mental health treatment, such as different medications, depending on where they live or receive care.

Dr. Penfold’s 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 study 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.
  • Automated Outreach for Depression, a National Institute of Mental Health-funded study to decrease premature drop-out from depression treatment.
  • Natural Language Processing to Detect Medication Side Effects, a Kaiser Permanente Washington-funded study designed to better capture adverse side effects experienced by patients taking antidepressants and antipsychotics.

Dr. Penfold has extensive experience gathering and analyzing information from large health databases, including those of Medicare and 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.

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

  • Health Services & Economics

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

  • Mental Health

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

  • Biostatistics

    Space-time surveillance; marginal structural modeling;  interrupted time series analysis

 

 

Recent publications

Simon GE, Johnson E, Lawrence JM, Rossom RC, Ahmedani B, Lynch FL, Beck A, Waitzfelder B, Ziebell R, Penfold RB, Shortreed SM. Predicting suicide attempts and suicide deaths following outpatient visits using electronic health records. Am J Psychiatry. 2018 May 24:appiajp201817101167. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17101167. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Magi R, Mamakou V, McKean-Cowdin R, Nadkarni G, Neville M, Nielsen SF, Ntalla I, Peyser PA, Rathmann W, Rice K, Rich SS, Rode L, Rolandsson O, Schonherr S, Selvin E, Small KS, Stancakova A, Surendran P, Taylor KD, Teslovich TM, Thorand B, Thorleifsso+++. Near Real-time Surveillance for Consequences of Health Policies Using Sequential Analysis. Nat Genet. 2018 Apr;50(4):559-571. doi: 10.1038/s41588-018-0084-1. Epub 2018 Apr 9. PubMed

Simon GE, Stewart C, Yarborough BJ, Lynch F, Coleman KJ, Beck A, Operskalski BH, Penfold RB, Hunkeler EM. Mortality rates after the first diagnosis of psychotic disorder in adolescents and young adults. JAMA Psychiatry. 2018 Jan 31. pii: 2670697. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.4437. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Simon GE, Stewart C, Hunkeler EM, Yarborough BJ, Lynch F, Coleman KJ, Beck A, Operskalski BH, Penfold RB, Carrell DS. Care pathways before first diagnosis of a psychotic disorder in adolescents and young adults. Am J Psychiatry. 2018 Jan 24:appiajp201717080844. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17080844. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

 

Mental Health

Suicide prevention: Research network finds new way to predict risk

Led by KPWHRI scientists, study aims to target those who need interventions most.

Read it in News and Events

advance care planning

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.

Live Healthy

Early signs of cognitive impairment? Learn about Your Life, Your Choices

If you or a loved one is experiencing cognitive impairment or even early signs of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, now is a good time to start talking with your health care providers and family members about advance care planning.

Read it in Live Healthy.