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HIBCC is the Health Industry Business Communications Council, the primary standard-setting and educational organization for bar coding in the world of healthcare. Founded in 1983 by a consortium of national trade associations specifically to develop an approach to labeling that would fulfill the unique requirements of our industry. The Health Industry Bar Code (HIBC) Standard is the result of that effort.

Millions of products bearing the HIBC Standard label are now found throughout the industry and the world. In Europe the standard has been accredited for use by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), and is administered by the European Health Industry Business Communications Council (EHIBCC), our companion organization.

In the US the HIBC standard data structure meets all current specifications for the Universal Product Number (UPN) initiative now underway, as well as the recent US Department of Defense initiative.

Companies using the HIBC labeling format are thus already in full compliance with voluntary standards in the institutional healthcare supply channel. Those which have not yet begun labelingshould review the following prior to selecting a labeling format.


HIBCC/ Healthcare

The Health Industry Bar Code Standard was created because the health industry is unique. Unlike most other industries, healthcare products have special human safety requirements, are routinely monitored by government regulators, and are often “purchased” indirectly (through insurance claims) for patients in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. As a consequence, labels must be as error-free as possible, must contain additional information, and must satisfy greater needs than those commonly found in point-of-sale environments such as grocery check-out counters.

By utilizing the HIBC format, manufacturers and distributors are meeting these requirements while simultaneously using the system which best suits their own internal needs.

In short, everyone in the supply channel benefits from the HIBC Standard.


The HIBC Standard was developed and is maintained by a consortium of expert, voluntary participants from all segments of the healthcare supply-information channel, including healthcare facilities. This assures that the healthcare facility is enabled — not restricted — by the standard.

Although other bar code formats, such as the GTIN (formally called the Uniform Product Code. or U.P.C./EAN) are found on healthcare products which are also sold in retail environments, they have limited usefulness within institutional environments.

The HIBC Standard accommodates virtually all types of product catalog identifiers because it allows both alphanumeric and variable length formats. Your records and systems are based on the identifiers that you have assigned to your items. As a consequence, if you already have an established internal identification scheme, you will most likely be able to use it within the HIBC Standard format with no required changes.


There are several important characteristics of the HIBC Standard that allow you to control your own labels:


  • Alphanumeric capability

The HIBC Standard accommodates bar codes that can contain both letters and numbers. Since many product catalog identifiers include letters, conformance to an all-numericstandard, such as the Uniform Product Code, requires that letters be converted to numbers.

  • Variable length of the product identification field

Healthcare product manufacturers have identifier systems that vary in line length. The HIBC Standard accommodates identifiers that can contain as many as 18 characters in any alpha or numeric combination, while other standards strictly limit product identifiers to exactly five all-numeric characters. Furthermore, the HIBC 18-character length accommodates the use of meaningful sub-fields within product identifiers.