GAO sustains IBM protest in medical equipment tracking system deal

Lauren Ingro/

The contract, worth $543 million, was awarded to HP Enterprise Services in June.

IBM won its protest against the Veterans Administration Department award of a $543 million Real-Time Location System contract to HP Enterprise Services in June. The Government Accountability Office announced the decision today.

VA wants to use triangulated signals from multiple Wi-Fi access points installed in its hospitals to track supplies and equipment identified by RTLS tags. The system would be augmented by ultrasound or infrared technology to locate individual items within an even narrower range, such as a bin located on a shelf or in a cabinet.

Department officials also want to develop a national data repository to track medical supplies and equipment at the local, regional and national levels.

When VA kicked off the RTLS procurement in January it estimated each of its 152 hospitals would require 80,000 electronic tags and seven mail-order pharmacy facilities would use 3,000 tags.

Chief Information Officer Roger Baker said in 2011 that RTLS could solve critical patient safety problems such as preventing the use of unsterilized medical equipment, something that has plagued VA hospitals in the past. Baker said RTLS tags on medical equipment would prevent its reuse before sterilization.

HP said it was “disappointed” with the GAO decision. IBM declined to comment.

(Image via Lauren Ingro/