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RTLS Goes Mainstream with New Ekahau Deal

RTLS solution provider Ekahau yesterday announced its award of a three-year preferred provider agreement with University HealthSystem Consortium, a group purchasing organization representing almost 300 academic medical centers and affiliated hospitals. The agreement signals RTLS's move into the healthcare technology mainstream.
Jan 08, 2009This article was originally published by RFID Update.

January 8, 2009—WiFi-based RTLS solution provider Ekahau yesterday announced its award of a three-year preferred provider agreement with University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC), a group purchasing organization representing almost 300 academic medical centers and affiliated hospitals. The agreement opens the door for those 300 medical centers and hospitals to easily purchase RTLS solutions and services from Ekahau at prenegotiated prices, and it signals RTLS's move into the healthcare technology mainstream.

Group purchasing organizations, or GPOs, like UHC aggregate medical institutions under a single buying umbrella, offering them bulk pricing on the myriad products and services purchased every year. It is a favorable arrangement for the medical institutions because they benefit from the bulk pricing as well as a catalogue of prescreened vendors. Vendors benefit because of the exposure to so many potential buyers. "Our expectation is that this will be a lot of business for us," Ekahau's vice president of business development Tuomo Rutanen told RFID Update.

Rutanen explained that UHC in particular is a favorable GPO with which to have an agreement because it represents academic hospitals like Johns Hopkins that are typically much larger than community hospitals. "Some of these are hospitals with north of 1,000 beds," said Rutanen. The larger the hospital, the more RTLS can add value: first, because a large hospital simply has more assets to track and second, because the larger square footage means assets get lost more often.

Aside from the immediate business benefit, Rutanen views the agreement as a positive signal of the mainstream-ification of RTLS in hospitals. "GPOs don't do these contracts for technologies until there's enough demand on the buy side [from hospitals]. They only contract for mainstream products and services," he said. "So to us this was a very welcome event, and demonstrates that there's pent-up demand for RTLS from UHC members. We are already engaged with a half-dozen UHC hospitals as a result of the agreement, and the ink has barely dried."

As for the wider affects on RTLS adoption given the economy, Rutanen said that demand is robust from the healthcare and energy sectors but that there has been some softening from the manufacturing sector.

The company's biggest deployment to date by number of tags is Carolinas Healthcare (see Carolinas HealthCare Launches Huge RTLS System). In terms of geography, Ekahau's largest deployment is with FedEx Ground, which has deployed the company's RTLS at sites across North America to centrally track and record the location of expensive mobile sorting docks.
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