Funder: Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit

May 2013 |

Daniel LesslerDr. Daniel Lessler has worked in public hospital systems for over 20 years, first in San Francisco and then in Seattle, and thrives on the non-stop energy and mission of these safety-net institutions. Throughout his career, he has spearheaded projects aimed at generating systems change in health care, particularly through fostering community partnerships. He is now looking at opportunities to impact health policy at the state level as chief medical officer for Washington State’s Medicaid program.

Dr. Lessler credits his residency training in San Francisco’s county hospital system as the spark that ignited his passion for working with health care’s most complex and vulnerable populations. During that time, he primarily cared for underserved populations – patients with multiple physical, behavioral, and social needs – who were simply grateful to be receiving care. “I loved the atmosphere, the esprit de corps, and the sense of mission that characterized the work,” he says. He also deeply appreciated the intellectual challenge of the work, which fed his desire to develop systems of care that could better serve people with complex needs.

In addition to maintaining an active primary care practice throughout his career, during his 20-plus years at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Dr. Lessler has worked locally and statewide on efforts to improve the quality and reduce the cost of care for complex patient populations. He served on the founding board, and subsequently, the Quality Improvement Committee, of the Puget Sound Health Alliance, a nonprofit that brings together patients, providers, employers, health plans, and other entities across five counties to improve health care through performance measurement, reporting, quality improvement, consumer engagement, and payment reform efforts.


Profiles in Innovation are a product of the Center for Health Care Strategies’ Complex Care Innovation Lab, made possible by Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit, which is bringing together leading innovators working to improve care for vulnerable populations with complex medical and social needs. These profiles highlight Innovation Lab participants and examine their pioneering work.