Canadian doctor launches 3D medical record system

By Rosie Lombardi

Dr Hisham BadawiA Calgary-based orthodontist has developed a game-changing 3D medical documentation software system that may have far-reaching impact in other medical fields. Most EMR systems are still text-based and have yet to incorporate advanced imaging technology, says Dr. Hisham Badawi (pictured), founder of Oral4D Systems. Instead, his software uses a generic 3D model of a patient’s teeth that allows dentists to see – rather than read – what’s been done over time. The software can be easily modified for use on other body parts. “My dream is to create the 3D equivalent of Google maps of the human body,” says Badawi.

Advanced technology has yet to make its way into medical documentation in a meaningful way, says Badawi, who spent years on the lecture circuit developing high-tech visual presentations. “When you look at the evolution of medical documentation, all it did was go from writing on paper to typing on-screen. Other than that, it’s been virtually untouched by technology.”

In essence, Oral4D takes a generic baseline 3D image of a body part – teeth, heart, knee – and allows the physician to manipulate and customize the image to match specific patients by documenting anomalies, problems, procedures and modifications made by treatments.

When doctors read clinical notes, they have to imagine the body part being treated in their minds. Instead, Oral4D allows the doctor to construct a virtual model on his computer.

“Much like on Google maps application, you can mark certain areas on the map. There’s no reason why we can’t do the same thing with the human body. Everyone can end up with 3D models of their own bodies that constitute their electronic health record. This is the future of clinical documentation,” says Badawi.

He emphasizes that his system is not based on diagnostic images, but rather on treatment images made to a personalized 3D model created on the computer. “I make the distinction between patients’ images or patient documentation and treatment documentation. Patient documentation is comprised of X-rays, CT, MRI scans, which are actual images of your own body part. Treatment documentation are doctor’s clinical notes saying, ‘This is what I did today.’”

For example, when patients see their dentists, documentation is typically in the form of text description of what’s been done. With Oral4D, a baseline 3D image of a patient’s teeth is initially made, then modified every time the patient is treated again by the dentist. “I didn’t want to read the description of the filling. I wanted to be able to see the filling in the patient’s mouth, with all the specifications of that filling.”

3D visualization technology offers medicine a number of powerful advantages, says Badawi. “Documentation is more accurate. When you rely on somebody else’s typed text, that free-form text is susceptible to errors and omissions. Visual information is usually more complete and is easily verifiable. It’s also more standardized – in my office, it doesn’t matter which one of my assistants made that note. It’s always the same note because it’s a standard visual with a standard template of text that I defined for my practice. The software that we created will automatically generate the text description to describe what was done to the patient.”

Because the Oral4D system makes it easier to generate structured medical data by doctors relative to text-based point-and-click systems, Badawi believes widespread adoption would boost analytics. “There’s a potential to run incredible analysis on the resultant data.”

At present, Oral4D is designed for dentistry, but many other areas of medicine such as cardiology, orthopedics and gastroenterology would benefit from 3D visual documentation. “In cardiology, for example, the technology would allow us to create a 3D image of the heart showing exactly where the blockages are, where the stent was placed, its specifications, and so on.”

Badawi and his team are working with an international company to identify one or two healthcare sectors that are most likely to benefit from this technology. “We’re going to create a proof of concept for different specialties on this company’s platform.”

About a dozen clinics across the world have implemented Oral4D systems since the company started selling them in November 2015. Interestingly, many of these buyers have also gone on to become investors after purchasing a system, so the company is growing via a “professional crowdfunding” model.

“I would say half of my investors are doctors who are using the software, so they’re professionals who saw the software, realized that this is the way of the future, and they want to be part of it.”

However, Badawi is also looking to external funding and venture capital to grow the company in new directions by developing 3D medical documentation systems in new medical areas. “I enjoyed the R&D part, but when it comes to commercialization, I think we’re very close to handing it over to people who have experience in growing start-ups to their full potential.”

For more information, visit