Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) has won a Department of Veterans Affairs contract valued at as much as $543 million to provide wireless tracking of hospital equipment such as wheelchairs and defibrillators.

The world’s biggest computer maker beat five other companies for the work, according to an award notice posted on a federal government website. International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) was among the companies that initially expressed interest in the project, according to previous online government documents.

Ericka Floyd, a spokeswoman for Palo Alto, California-based HP, declined to comment.

The VA plans to equip its 152 medical centers with the monitoring systems to minimize lost equipment and improve patient care, according to agency documents. The systems also would track whether devices are properly sterilized and would identify patients that may have received medical products later recalled by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Department officials also want to use tracking tags on patient ID bracelets and staff badges to monitor the movement of patients and hospital workers, including how frequently staff wash their hands, according to the documents.

Employees won’t be tracked without labor union approval, the VA has said.

The department’s project may encourage other hospital systems to follow suit, analysts have said. The global market for hardware, software and services tied to wireless asset- tracking and real-time location technology may double to $1.6 billion by 2016, Drew Nathanson, a vice president at Natick, Massachusetts-based VDC Research Group, has said.

In other IBM news:

  • IBM updates its security appscan for mobile devices.

CIO Today has the details.

[IBM ARCHIVE: Check out a decade of IBM stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]

(Bloomberg news contributed to this report.)