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

Eaves ER, Hsu CW, DeBar LL, Livingston CJ, Ocker LE, McDonald SJ, Dillon-Sumner L, Ritenbaugh C. Whole systems within whole systems: the Oregon health plan's expansion of services for back and neck pain. J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Mar;25(S1):S61-S68. doi: 10.1089/acm.2018.0431. PubMed

Hsu C, Gray MF, Murray L, Abraham M, Nickel W, Sweeney JM, Frosch DL, Mroz TM, Ehrlich K, Johnson B, Reid RJ. Actions and processes that patients, family members, and physicians associate with patient- and family-centered care. BMC Fam Pract. 2019;20(1):35. doi: 10.1186/s12875-019-0918-7. PubMed

Figueroa Gray M, Hsu C, Kiel L, Dublin S. Getting through the day: a pilot qualitative study of U.S. women's experiences making decisions about anti-nausea medication during pregnancy. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2018;18(1):475. doi: 10.1186/s12884-018-2093-6. PubMed

Hsu C, Hertel E, Johnson E, Cahill C, Lozano P, Ross TR, Ehrlich K, Coleman K, BlueSpruce J, Cheadle A, Matthys J, Chapdelaine M, Gray M, Tufte J, Robbins M. Evaluation of the Learning to Integrate Neighborhoods and Clinical Care project: findings from implementing a new lay role into primary care teams to address social determinants of health. Perm J. 2018; 22:18-101.Published online 2018 Oct 22.doi: 10.7812/TPP/18-101.

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


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