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:
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.
Children and adolescents; anti-psychotics and anti-depressants; bipolar disorder, and depression
Comparative effectiveness; consumer-directed health plans; patient outcomes; costs of chronic illnesses; Medicare and Medicaid
Space-time surveillance; interrupted time series analysis
Lion KC, Zhou C, Ebel BE, Penfold RB, Mangione-Smith R. Identifying modifiable health care barriers to improve health equity for hospitalized children. Hosp Pediatr. 2020 Jan;10(1):1-11. doi: 10.1542/hpeds.2019-0096. Epub 2019 Dec 4 PubMed
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 Dec 1;26(12):1458-1465. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocz136. 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. 2021 Feb;27(2):110-115. doi: 10.1177/1357633X19863208. Epub 2019 Jul 25. PubMed
The HCSRN conference is a venue for collaborative work to improve health and health care.
Using doctor's notes to learn about drug reactions, dementia, and cannabis use.
Rob Penfold, PhD, writes about suicide trends in children and adolescents and what researchers are doing about them.
Dr. Sascha Dublin explains why sometimes not taking medications may be a safer and healthier choice.