A delimiter is simply a sequence of one or more characters used to separate two text strings. For EDI, a delimiter is a single character used to separate two data elements or to terminate a segment. We'll only be discussing EDI delimiters as it pertains to HealthCare transactions.
There are typically 3-4 delimiters used in HealthCare EDI transactions depending on the standard. For illustration purposes, here are some delimiter examples for HealthCare EDI transactions.
|*||Asterisk||Data Element Separator||ISA - position 4|
|^||Carat||Repetition Separator||ISA11 - position 83|
|:||Colon||Component Element Separator||ISA - position 105|
|~||Tilde||Segment Terminator||ISA - position 106|
What Delimiters should you use?
The choice is yours in many cases but check with your Trading Partner first, as they may have predefined delimiters that you will need to use. Interestingly, many EDI processing systems examine the ISA (interchange header segment) segment to determine which characters are being used as delimiters and then use those for the particular transaction. Please reference the table above for the exact ISA delimiter positions.