Marianne Matthews

When I think of Valentine’s Day, I think of long-stemmed roses, a box of Godivas, perhaps a bottle of bubbly. But how about a beautiful, new MRI machine topped off with a giant red bow? That’s just how manufacturer Siemens Medical Solutions is showing its love to community hospitals.

According to the American Hospital Association, there are some 4,927 community hospitals in the United States. But many of these hospitals struggle to keep pace with technology. Tight capital equipment budgets make it difficult, if not impossible, to invest in state-of-the-art tools. Yet the demand for diagnostic imaging continues to increase. According to industry analysts, the number of imaging procedures is expected to grow from about 250 million procedures in 2004 to more than 500 million by 2009. What’s a small, local hospital to do?

For two of them, anyway, the answer came in the form of an early Valentine from Siemens. On January 25, Lockport Memorial Hospital, based in Lockport, NY, learned it was the winner of Siemens’ “Win an MRI” contest. The hospital is now the proud owner of a brand-new $800,000 MRI—one of the company’s newest models, specifically designed and priced to meet the needs and budgets of community hospitals. Up until now, patients at Lockport Memorial had to travel to an off-site facility to get an MRI exam.

Siemens launched “Win an MRI” in late October, inviting hospitals to display their creativity and commitment to patient care in short online videos that showcased their unique stories and highlighted why their institution most deserved a free MRI. In a way, the contest was an opportunity for everyone to show some love—Siemens’ dedication to community hospitals and hospitals’ dedication to their patients.

More than 100 hospitals across the country posted videos to the campaign Web site ( The contest generated more than 2.68 million video viewings and 1.4 million total votes. In the end, it was Lockport Memorial’s video that captured the hearts of voters. The video creates a sense of anticipation for a much-needed MRI by repeatedly asking the question, “Is it here yet?” Hospital staffers, nurses, physicians, and surgeons offer a range of responses, including the most powerful, “No, but 80,000 people are waiting for it.”

Indeed, there are countless patients waiting for MRIs. In 2007, one in nine Americans underwent an MRI examination. But if things keep going the way they have been, small—especially rural—hospitals won’t be able to afford the kind of medical imaging equipment it takes to provide quality patient care.

That’s why the Siemens contest is so important. Sure, the company aimed to build brand awareness and woo new customers, but the gesture is still inspiring. In fact, the manufacturer was so moved by another hospital’s video story it opted to give away a second machine—an unplanned philanthropic move. In recognition of Sumter Regional Hospital’s struggle to rebuild following a devastating 2007 tornado, Siemens will donate a new MRI to the Americus, Ga, facility.

An MRI may seem like a funny Valentine. But after the roses die and the chocolates get consumed, an MRI keeps on giving to the community.

Marianne Matthews, editor