Clarissa Hsu, PhD

“We're finding that having patients, clinical staff, and community leaders on our research teams helps us develop health care that actually helps people be healthy.”


Clarissa Hsu, PhD

Assistant Investigator, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute

Areas of focus:

Medical anthropologist Clarissa Hsu, PhD, conducts research using a holistic approach that brings together the cultural, social, and political factors that shape health and health care. Dr. Hsu was one of the first researchers to receive funding from the national Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), which supports health studies on issues that are a high priority for patients, caregivers, and clinicians. All PCORI-funded research must include patient input at all steps in the research process. Dr. Hsu and her team christened her PCORI project LINCC: Learning to Integrate Neighborhoods and Clinical Care.

The LINCC project resulted in the design, pilot implementation and evaluation of a new primary care role focused on connecting patients to community resources. This role has recently been spread throughout the Kaiser Permanente Washington. In addition, the LINCC project has resulted in several products, including an article on having patients as co-investigators, an article summarizing our evaluation findings, a guide to engaging a cohort of patients in co-designing care (PDF), and a companion set of care design templates (Word).

In addition to continuing work around clinic-community connections and addressing social determinants of health in primary care, Dr. Hsu also is working on projects that help chronic pain patients taper off and find alternatives to opioids, and improve how care delivery systems interact with patients and family members around sensitive topics such as dementia diagnoses and use of antipsychotics in youth.

Dr. Hsu joined the KPWHRI faculty in 2011—bringing extensive expertise in using qualitative methods to learn about patient and provider experiences. Dr. Hsu specializes in improving health by investigating:

  • clinical transformation and health care design,
  • patient-centered care,
  • complementary and alternative medicine, and
  • the effectiveness of community-based health improvement programs and health promotion policies.

Dr. Hsu's work strives to improve the health of individuals and their communities by assessing and documenting, evaluating, and disseminating best practices for clinical, behavioral, and community health projects. Her work helps programs learn to evaluate their own effectiveness; explores ways to promote community-driven health improvement strategies; and increases understanding of the types of actions that lead to sustainable changes in the health of communities.

Dr. Hsu is an affiliate professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health.

Research interests and experience

  • Healthy Communities

    Clinic-community linkages; preventive medicine; addressing social determinants of health
  • Clinical Quality Improvement

    Primary care; ambulatory care; preventive medicine; health care design and workforce issues; addressing social determinants of health
  • Patient-Centered Outcomes Research

    Patient engagement and partnership; shared decision making
  • Evaluation Science and Implementation and Dissemination Science

    Qualitative and mixed-methods approaches
  • Complementary & Integrative Health

    Patient experiences with complementary and alternative medicine 


Recent publications

Hsu C, Evers S, Balderson BH, Sherman KJ, Foster NE, Estlin K, Levine M, Cherkin D. Adaptation and implementation of the STarT back risk stratification strategy in a US health care organization: a process evaluation. Pain Med. 2018 Sep 28. pii: 5110194. doi: 10.1093/pm/pny170. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Blasi PR, Cromp D, McDonald S, Hsu C, Coleman K, Flinter M, Wagner EH. Approaches to behavioral health integration at high performing primary care practices. J Am Board Fam Med. 2018;31(5):691-701. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2018.05.170468. PubMed

Cherkin D, Balderson B, Wellman R, Hsu C, Sherman KJ, Evers SC, Hawkes R, Cook A, Levine MD, Piekara D, Rock P, Estlin KT, Brewer G, Jensen M, LaPorte AM, Yeoman J, Sowden G, Hill JC, Foster NE. Effect of Low Back Pain Risk-Stratification Strategy on Patient Outcomes and Care Processes: the MATCH Randomized Trial in Primary Care. LID - 10.1007/s11606-018-4468-9 [doi] J Gen Intern Med. 2018 May 22. pii: 10.1007/s11606-018-4468-9. doi: 10.1007/s11606-018-4468-9 [Epub ahead of print] PubMed

Hartzler AL, Tuzzio L, Hsu C, Wagner EH. Roles and functions of community health workers in primary care. Ann Fam Med. 2018 May;16(3):240-245. doi: 10.1370/afm.2208. PubMed

Parchman M, Hsu C, Fagnan L, van Borkulo N, Tuzzio L. Building a learning health care organization: external facilitation tailors support to the learning capacity of primary care settings. J Patient Cent Res Rev. 2017;4:187.


Patient-centered research

When patients become researchers

Two Group Health members talk about what it was like to be co-investigators on a study from the national Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Read it in Healthy Findings.

KPWHRI In the Media

Kaiser Permanente study tests new way to reduce ‘vaccine hesitancy’

Study: Training parents as immunization advocates a promising approach to vaccine hesitancy

Science Blogs, May 1, 2017

Healthy Findings Blog

Mom shares experience in Immunity Community

Jessica Booth tells what it’s like to serve as a parent advocate for childhood vaccination.

Read it in Healthy Findings.

KPWHRI In the Media

Kaiser Permanente study tests new way to reduce ‘vaccine hesitancy’

Why vaccine skeptics respond better to information than shaming

Time, Apr. 12, 2017