During the last 10 years many EMG companies have incorporated databases in the EMG machine. With a database it is possible to perform automatic calculation of deviation from normal, to obtain automatic report generation, to perform statistical analyses using the third party programs and to reduce the amount of human typing errors. The development in medical informatics has moreover made telecommunication possible. Unfortunately, no international standard for storage, retrieval and exchanges of EMG data exists. Different types of EMG machines even from the same company have different data formats, different databases and different report generators.
An international standard format for EMG data would make it possible that data from one EMG test machine can be read by other EMG machines. With such a standard it would be possible to integrate the EMG machine, the database, the report generator, a hospital information system, and electronic patient report and communication links to other laboratories. This would give several advances.
With a common standard from EMG data the laboratories need only one EMG database and one report generator independent of the type of EMG machine. In this way the report will be the same even if the EMG examinations are performed on different types of EMG machines or if a new type of an EMG machine is introduced in the laboratory.
Telecommunication within the hospital may be possible with links or interfaces to a HIS or to an electronic patient record.
Telecommunication between laboratories based on an international standard for EMG data may make it possible to exchange patient studies between laboratories. This may be used for consulting service, research on multi center databases (e.g., research on special techniques or on seldom disorders and evaluation of reference values), and conduction of multi center quality development projects (e.g. medical audit electronic conferences and development of standards and guidelines for EMG practice). Moreover, dissemination of standards and guidelines for EMG practice may be possible.
An international standard for EMG data requires the following a common EMG terminology and the IFCN terminology, a common EMG dataset structure, which covers and harmonises all information from different EMG schools. The dataset identifies, codes and relates anatomical structures, techniques, measured data (optimally also signals), deviations from reference material, pathophysiological states of examined structures and diagnoses, a common communication protocol for exchange of EMG data which defines how to send data.
To explore the possibilities of medical informatics within EMG one has to take into consideration the techniques of local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN), analogue telephone modems, digital modems and the use of internet. The legal aspects of electronic communication which may differ from country to country should be considered.
For interfacing of EMG equipment with computers the IEEE 488 has been used. It has sufficient data transmission capacity for online requirement. For less demanding data transmission RS 332 has been the most common standard. Since most modern EMG equipment includes a computer network connections are becoming more and more used. It enables the use of a common storage device and thereby a common database and the possibility to access data from any point of a network.