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
Assistant Professor, Department of Health Systems Science, Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine


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, Ulloa E. Incentivizing prescription drug switching to reduce patient and health plan spending: a microsimulation model. Value Health. 2022;25(3):427-434. doi: 10.1016/j.jval.2021.08.012. Epub 2021 Oct 1. PubMed

Yeung K, Zhu W, McCurry SM, Von Korff M, Wellman R, Morin CM, Vitiello MV. Cost-effectiveness of telephone cognitive behavioral therapy for osteoarthritis-related insomnia. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2021 Oct 11. doi: 10.1111/jgs.17469. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Vitiello MV, Zhu W, Von Korff M, Wellman R, Morin CM, Yeung K, McCurry SM. Short-term improvements in insomnia or pain predict long-term improvements in sleep, pain, depression, and fatigue in older adults with co-morbid osteoarthritis pain and insomnia. Sleep. 2021 Sep 13:zsab231. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsab231. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Brouwer E, Yeung K, Barthold D, Hansen R. Characterizing patient assistance program use and patient responsiveness to specialty drug price for multiple sclerosis in a mid-size integrated health system. J Manag Care Spec Pharm. 2021;27(6):732-742. doi: 10.18553/jmcp.2021.27.6.732. PubMed

Yeung K, Dusetzina SB. Prescription drug out-of-pocket cost reduction programs: incentives and implications. JAMA Intern Med. 2021 Jun 1;181(6):765-766. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.0739. PubMed


COVID-19 treatments

open Pill bottle pills on table top

New report supports value of COVID-19 drugs

A team led by KPWHRI's Kai Yeung, PharmD, PhD, reviewed trial results for cost-effectiveness of 3 treatments.



Phone therapy for insomnia shown to improve sleep

A study among KP members with sleep problems and osteoarthritis shows promise for overcoming obstacles to treatment.

healthy findings blog


Pandemic highlights need for pragmatic clinical trials

Now more than ever we can benefit from studies embedded in health-care systems to answer common clinical questions.

KPWHRI In the Media

Kai Yeung on incentives to encourage high-value use of health care

Drug-cost offsets seem to take some pressure off patients’ wallets

Physicians Weekly, April 1, 2021