VA inks $543M RTLS contract for 152 medical centers nationwide

Real-time technology to help improve operational efficiency, quality, satisfaction and compliance
By Mike Miliard
11:15 AM

The Department of Veterans Affairs has tapped HP Enterprise Services and Intelligent InSites for a $543 million contract to deploy real-time locating system technology in VA medical centers nationwide.

The five-year contract will provide 152 medical centers in the 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks and seven Consolidated Medical Outpatient Pharmacy facilities with system-wide technology to help improve operational efficiency, quality, satisfaction and compliance, officials say – part of the VA's larger project to drive down operational costs, reduce delays in patient care and increase clinical efficiencies and staff productivity.

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"The flexibility of the Intelligent InSites platform, including its ability to empower multiple applications to deliver real-time operational intelligence across multiple use cases and multiple facilities, supports VA's vision to improve health care efficiency across the VA enterprise," said Kimberly Brayley, director of the RTLS Project Management Office of Veterans Health Administration, in a statement.

As it automatically gathers data from millions of RTLS and radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags on VA medical equipment, surgical instruments and supplies, the technology will offer VA with enterprise-wide visibility, analytics and intelligence into its operational processes, officials say.

Initial use cases include asset management, cath lab supply management, sterile processing workflow and automated temperature monitoring. Future applications could include patient wander management, hand hygiene monitoring and emergency department and operating room workflow.

At the level of a VA Medical Center, the RTLS will help employees impact operational processes and patient care in real time, officials say. At a regional and national level, the platform will allow VA to monitor, benchmark and improve system-wide operational performance and process improvement initiatives, resulting in increased healthcare efficiency and improved Veteran care.

[See also: VA awards $3.4M contract for RTLS system]

The Intelligent InSites platform is designed to span multiple hospitals across large healthcare systems, aggregating and processing data to provide real-time operational intelligence at the department level, hospital level and healthcare system level, company officials say. The platform – accessible through open application programming interfaces – enables third-party developers and IT departments to build their own real-time-enabled tools on top of it, finding new ways to leverage the real-time operational intelligence.

Current integrations to the platform include Censis Technologies for sterile processing and surgical instrument tracking, WaveMark for cath lab supply management and VA's asset management solution, AEMS/MERS, say Intelligent InSites – who add that  Intelligent InSites will integrate with VA's electronic health record software, VistA CPRS, to augment operational processes with contextually-relevant clinical data.

"The VA healthcare system is a recognized leader in healthcare – both for the quality of their clinical care and for their use of healthcare information technology to transform and improve their operations and patient care," said Margaret Laub, president and CEO of Intelligent InSites. "As the current enterprise platform provider to VA for its successful deployment across the seven medical centers of VISN 11, we are extremely honored to expand our service to the VA and provide system-wide service to our nation's veterans."

The VA has shown a keen interest in the transformative potential of RTLS for some time. This past August, for instance, it began by rolling out the technology in seven of its hospitals in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan with help from HP and Intelligent InSites.

That deployment saw Intelligent InSites processing real-time data from nearly half a million items. The numbers were impressive: some 25,000 active RTLS tags, 94,000 passive RFID tags, 255,000 tracked surgical instruments more than 2,000 wireless temperature and humidity sensors, 63,000 expendable cardiac catheterization lab supplies – all tracking data across 4,500,000 square feet of coverage.

The VA's recognition of RTLS dovetails with its VA Innovation Initiative, which seeks to "identify, fund, and test new ideas from VA employees, academia, and the private sector" with an aim toward "improving access, quality, performance, and cost," in the words of U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

"Transforming VA into a 21st-century organization involves a commitment to many broad challenges," including the need "to stay on the cutting edge of healthcare delivery" and "to lay the foundation for safe, secure, and authentic health record interoperability," Shinseki has said. "Our health informatics initiative is a foundational component for VA’s transition from a medical model to a patient-centered model of care."

When it comes to healthcare, RTLS is still a "a young industry," Marcus Ruark, vice president of marketing at Intelligent InSites, told Healthcare IT News in an interview at HIMSS12 in Las Vegas last February. As hospitals are preoccupied with meeting meaningful use requirements, its use in the industry is still limited.

It's on the uptick, however, and the VA's example is one that many providers hope to follow.

"When we talk to commercial hospitals about what the VA is doing, they get very interested," said Ruark. "They view themselves as followers of the VA."