File Exchange Format for Vital Signs

Figure of storing biosignals to a CD-ROM and a floppy

The need to exchange physiological signal and other physiological measurement data between computer systems has increased during the past few years as more and more measurements end up in digital form. The first exchange parties have been researchers who have needed the possibility to collect data from different laboratories to increase their sample sizes and to learn from each others' recordings. The expansive use of telemedicine in such areas of medicine where digital recordings are made is based on the assumption that the receiver of the data can view and process the data. At present this is only possible between laboratories which use the equipment of the same manufacturer or some agreed interchange format which has required programming skills in order to make the conversion programs. The purpose of this standard is to define a standard file exhange format which, when implemented by many manufacturers, solves the data interchange problem. Application areas of the format range from intensive care units to sleep laboratories and epilepsy monitoring.

This initiative which began in May 1994, is supported by CEN/TC251/WGIV and it is continuation for the work item Vital Signs Information Representation elaborated by CEN/TC251/PT5-021. It began by making a survey of earlier data formats none of which had not, however, the characteristics of becoming the standard format as such. In October 1999 a project team, CEN/TC251/PT-40 began its work to prepare a prestandard proposal of the topic.

The pre-final version of the document can be downloaded through the public web page of the project team The final version has been submitted for the CEN Central Secretariat for publication and due to copyright issues it cannot be made publicly available here.

An important part of the pre-standard is a reference to Annex A of Vital Signs Information Representation which contains the codes for the signals, measurements, body sites and events to be stored by the format. The version available in the link above is not the final one either (copyright issue again).

See also ENV 14271, File Exchange Format for Vital Signs an its use in digital ECG archiving. 2nd OpenECG workshop "Integration of the ECG into the EHR & Interoperability of ECG Device Systems", 1.-3. April 2004, Berlin, Germany.

Alpo Värri

Institute of Signal Processing, Tampere University of Technology, P.O. Box 553, FIN-33101 Tampere, Finland
Tel. +358-3-31152575, Fax. +358-3-31153087, E-mail: (but convert "ä" to "a").