The Hospital Cooperative Mobile MRI
- Need: Critical Access Hospitals in Idaho were not able to afford a fixed MRI system.
- Intervention: The hospitals partnered to purchase a mobile MRI unit to travel among facilities.
- Results: The MRI unit went into service in 2012, providing hundreds of scans per month and traveling among six member hospitals in rural Idaho.
Cooperative (THC) is a health network in Idaho
consisting primarily of Critical Access Hospitals. These
small, rural hospitals were not able to afford a fixed
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system, so they
partnered to purchase and share a mobile MRI unit that
travels among hospitals and provides MRI services to
rural patients who otherwise would have to travel to
other communities. THC partnered with an MRI services
company and six member hospitals in 2011.
The mobile unit travels among the six member hospitals,
providing half-day service to each hospital instead of
full-day service, thereby allowing each hospital to have
the unit multiple times per week. This is much more
convenient for patient scheduling.
The new mobile MRI unit was first used in early 2012.
Since then, it has been successfully traveling among the
six member hospitals, providing MRIs to patients who
otherwise would have to travel for the service. As many
as 160 scans per month have been completed with the
mobile MRI, and feedback has been positive.
THC met budget targets and now completely owns the mobile
MRI system. After a few months of being in service, the
mobile MRI unit received a marketing wrap in order to
take advantage of the "mobile marketing" the unit
One barrier is the ongoing maintenance of the unit, as
THC has had unexpected repairs.
In addition, two of the original partners utilizing the
mobile MRI decided to get a fixed unit at the hospital,
but THC was able to fill in the schedule with non-member
hospitals. Enough revenue was still generated to make the
The participating hospitals experienced a slight dip in
MRI usage from February to May 2020 due to the COVID-19
The time the MRI unit spends at each hospital –
half a day versus a full day – allows the unit
to visit each hospital multiple times per week. This
helps the hospitals and patients when scheduling MRIs.
Hospitals should consider the length of time and the
number of visits per week the MRI will "reside" at each
THC learned that securing funding can be a difficult and
lengthy process for such an ambitious project. THC
required a five-year commitment from each of the
participating hospitals to help secure financing. Many
business models were considered in order to find the best
fit for the program. THC recommends that hospitals secure
funding early and allot enough time to communicate
business plans and contracts with all participating
hospitals. THC highly recommends utilizing the mobile
marketing aspect of a traveling MRI system by installing
a marketing wrap around the mobile unit.
THC also recommends developing a repair fund, as it will
be easier to pay for unexpected repairs.
Mobile and episodic healthcare delivery
November 15, 2012
Date updated or reviewed
September 28, 2022
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub,
The Hospital Cooperative Mobile MRI [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at:
[Accessed 22 February 2024]
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