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Siemens’ (almost) million-dollar giveaway

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In a kind of YouTube meets “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” Siemens Medical Solutions is planning a contest to give an MR scanner to a needy community hospital.

In a kind of YouTube meets "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," Siemens Medical Solutions is planning a contest to give an MR scanner to a needy community hospital.

Behind door number 1.5T is the company's new Essenza scanner. The contest will help the company publicize the scanner, introduced only a few days ago. It's hard to imagine a better deal, or a more fitting one, given present-day realities.

Capable of doing the bread-and-butter scans but not the most advanced ones, Essenza - with its lightweight design (3.5 tons) and ultrashort bore (145 cm) - will fit in nicely at community hospitals and other small facilities. While Siemens will be more than happy to sell the no-frills workhorse, which lists for under a million dollars, to anyone, only community hospitals with 180 or fewer beds should bother applying for the freebie, and only if they do not already have an MR scanner of their own.

Siemens is inviting these hospitals to display their "creativity and dedication to patient care" in videos running two minutes or less. The videos will be posted on Siemens' contest site, where they can be viewed and voted upon by the U.S. public. Voting will run from Oct. 22 through Dec. 31, and the winner will be announced in mid-January.

In making its announcement Oct. 22, Siemens cited television medical dramas "House" and "ER" as bringing clinical challenges into the homes of millions of U.S. viewers each week. Through its contest, Siemens wants to do the same for the stories of real-life small hospitals.

Over the course of the contest, Siemens will gain a good bit of publicity for itself and for its new MR scanner. Nothing wrong with that. There's no better bargain than one where everyone wins.

Twenty years after commercial MR scanners began rolling off production lines, more than 1500 U.S. hospitals still do not offer MRI services, according to Siemens estimates. Early next year, there should be at least one less.

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