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HP Enterprise Services snares $543 million deal with VA for Real-Time Location System

RTLS will help VA locate supplies at its hospitals and pharmacy facilities.

RTLS will help VA locate supplies at its hospitals and pharmacy facilities. // Veterans Affairs Department

This story has been updated.

The Veterans Affairs Department on Friday awarded HP Enterprise Services a contract worth as much as $543 million to develop and install a Real-Time Location System in all its medical facilities and mail-order pharmacies. The system will be able to track supplies and equipment within 3 feet.

When it released the RTLS procurement on Jan. 6, department officials estimated that each of its 152 hospitals would require 80,000 RTLS tags and each of its seven mail-order pharmacy would use 3,000 tags.

VA said it wanted the winning vendor to use triangulated signals from multiple Wi-Fi access points installed in hospitals to track supplies and equipment identified by RTLS tags. The system is 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.

In September 2011, HP Enterprise Services won a $10.4 million contract to install RTLS in one VA medical facility in Ann Arbor, Mich.

VA plans to use the system primarily to manage inventory, but Chief Information Officer Roger Baker also views RTLS as a way to solve a critical patient safety problems -- the use of unsterilized medical equipment.

The department’s inspector general reported in June 2009 that VA hospitals in Georgia and Florida failed to properly sterilize endoscopes used for colonoscopies before reusing them. Baker told reporters in November 2011 that RTLS tags on medical equipment would prevent its reuse before sterilization.

RTLS also will enable staff to monitor temperatures in refrigerated areas that store pharmaceuticals, tissues, organs, blood, food and other items. VA eventually plans to use RTLS to track patients and staff, although staff tracking strongly opposed by VA unions.

The contract calls for HP to provide VA with tags, handheld and fixed readers, and software that can display the location of tagged items in the mammoth national data repository.

HP Enterprise Services will use the department’s existing Wi-Fi systems, but as of May, 111 VA hospitals lackedthe type of advanced Wi-Fi systems needed to support RTLS. VA awarded Harris Corp. a $19.4 million task order in March to install advanced Wi-Fi in 26 hospitals and the department is working on a strategy to equip the remaining 85 hospitals.

The Navy Bureau of Medicine kicked off a procurement last Thursday to track 300,000 pieces of medical equipment at 19 hospitals and hundreds of clinics worldwide.

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