Francis Lau

Francis Lau
Professor Emeritus
Health Information Science

BSc (Alberta), MSc (Alberta), MBA (Alberta), PhD (Alberta)

Area of expertise

Electronic health records; Evidence review; Implementation and evaluation of health information systems; Health terminology standards; Social determinants of health

Dr. Francis Lau is a Professor in the School of Health Information Science at the University of Victoria. He is a PhD graduate in Applied Sciences in Medicine from the University of Alberta with specialization in medical informatics. He has a diverse background in business, computing and medical sciences, with 14 years of professional experience in the IT industry. Prior to joining the University of Victoria in 2001 he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Accounting and Management Information Systems in the Business School at the University of Alberta. He has led a number of large scale CIHR funded initiatives including the Health Informatics Research Training Program, New Emerging Teams in Palliative and End-of-life Care, and Partnership in Health Systems Improvement. He was also the recipient of the eHealth Chair funded by CIHR/Infoway in 2008-2013 to establish an eHealth Observatory to monitor the impact of health information system deployment in Canada. Dr. Lau's research areas are in health information system evaluation, health information standards, and primary care informatics. His current foci are in patient-oriented research, patient portals, health terminologies and health equity in EHRs. 


Sexual and Gender Identities in EHRs – Dr. Lau’s latest program of research is to reduce health inequities experienced by sexual and gender minorities (SGM) through the design of inclusive digital health systems. Currently he chairs the Infoway Sex and Gender Working Group that meets monthly to discuss sex-gender issues related to EHR systems -see link. Leading an interdisciplinary team he just completed a CIHR planning project to co-create an action plan to modernize gender, sex and sexual orientation (GSSO) information practices in EHRs. This was a 1-year multi-methods study with literature review and environmental scan of current GSSO information practices and issues, mind mapping of the GSSO terminology, and virtual group discussion with interested participants for guidance. See under publications tab for the rapid review, environmental scan and action plan outputs from this project.

Adoption/Use and Impact of Health Terminology Standards – Another research area for Dr. Lau is in health information standards, especially with the reference terminology standard SNOMED CT. He was the Canadian representative on the Research and Innovation Committee of the International Health Terminology Standard Development Organization, where he had established an international reputation as one of the handful of terminology researchers in Canada with a focus on SNOMED CT adoption/use and impact issues. Dr. Lau has published scientific papers in SNOMED CT encoding methodologies and adoption/use issues. He has established an emerging research program in standards with the successful completion of a pilot project to explore clinical use of SNOMED CT in Alberta in 2008. He has a small team of research trainees and colleagues where the terminology related work is aligned with palliative and primary care as the clinical domains. Dr. Lau’s current work involves the cleaning and encoding of EMR data to improve its quality in physician offices. 

Information System Research and Evaluation Methods – Dr. Lau has made a major contribution to advance the health informatics discipline in health information system (HIS) research and evaluation methods. He is the recipient of the CIHR/Infoway eHealth Chair award responsible for the creation of an eHealth Observatory to monitor the effects of HIS deployment in Canada. This mandate includes the development of rigorous yet pragmatic HIS evaluation models, methods and metrics for use by HIS practitioners and researchers. An example of the output to date is the Benefits Evaluation Framework that has now been adopted by Canada Health Infoway as the overarching Framework to evaluate the impacts of electronic health record (EHR) implementation initiatives across Canada. Another is the recent publication of a meta-synthesis of 50 HIS reviews on the current state of HIS knowledge with recommendations on ways to improve HIS adoption. Dr. Lau’s team has also created a Rapid Response Evaluation Method (RREM) toolkit that can be used to evaluate the adoption/use and impact of HIS. For more detail of the eHealth Observatory see:

Publications in the last five years

Published refereed papers:

  • Lau F, et al. Modernizing Gender, Sex and Sexual Orientation Information Practices in Electronic Health Record Systems – Action Plan, Nov 2020. Available -
  • Antonio M, Petrovskaya O, Lau F. The state of evidence in patient portals: Umbrella review. Journal of Medical Internet Research 2020; 22(10):e23851. doi: 2196/23851
  • Lau, F, Antonio M, Davison K, Queen R, Bryski K. An environmental scan of sex and gender in electronic health records. Journal of Medical Internet Research 2020; 22(11):
  • Lau F, Antonio M, Davison K, Queen R, Devor A. A rapid review of gender, sex and sexual orientation documentation in electronic health records. Journal of American Medical Informatics Association 2020; 27(11):1774-83.
  • Kersloot MG, Lau F, Abu-Hanna A, Arts DL, Cornet R. Automated SNOMED CT concept and attribute relationship detection through a web-based implementation of cTAKES. Journal of Biomedical Semantics 2019; 10:14.
  • Antonio M & Petrovskaya O. Is research on patient portals attuned to health equity? A scoping review. Journal of American Medical Informatics Association 2019; 26(8-9):871-83.
  • Lau F. Cultivating ehealth evaluation leadership. Healthcare Management Forum 2019; May 16. Available from
  • Olga P, Lau F & Antonio M. Synthesizing evidence on patient portals: a protocol for an umbrella review. BMJ Open 2019; 9(3):e024469. Protocol registration no: PROSPERO 2018 CRD42019096657.
  • Xie L, Strudwick G, Kalia K, Lau F. Understanding mental health nurses’ perceptions of barcode medication administration: A qualitative descriptive study. Issues in Mental Health Nursing 2019; 40(4):
  • Downing MG, Lesperance M, De Kock I, Mirhossein M, Black F, Lau F. The development of the prognostat tool for survival prediction in palliative care patients. Journal of Palliative Medical Care & Research 2018; 1(1):101.
  • Thai V, Ghosh S, Tarumi Y, Wolch G, Mayo P, Fassbender K, DeKock I, Mirhousseini N, Quan H, Lau F. Clinician prediction survival of end stage non-cancer patients. Progress in Palliative Care: Science and the Art of Caring. Published online Jul 26, 2016.