Innovation Hero Winner: Darren Sommer, Innovator Health

Darren Sommer is trying to get vital health care services to out-of-the-way places, without anyone having to go out of their way.

As CEO of Innovator Health, based in Jonesboro, Sommer has a vision to deploy a telemedicine platform that allows health systems to export their clinical services in the most human method possible.

Patients living in rural communities have limited access to medical services, especially those in need of specialty care. The average rural patient over the age of 65 visits a specialist more than three times a year and travels more than one hour each way to receive care.

This isolation leaves rural patients with limited options for access to health care; they can commute long distances, overuse the ER or not receive health care at all.

Innovator Health (IH) has set out to create a telemedicine platform that allows patients to receive the care they deserve, in the communities where they live. And, all of this is done with technology that makes the health care provider look like they are physically there with the patient.

Percent of health care specialists in the U.S. who practice in rural areas
Percent of U.S. land mass made up of rural areas
Rural hospitals Innovator Health is focused on supporting

“Health care is about relationships. Relationships are hard to develop even under the best of circumstances. However, with Skype-like telemedicine, it is almost possible,” Sommer said.

With multiple degrees and a focus on osteopathic medicine plus 20 years of military service that includes two combat tours fighting global terrorism, Sommer has become both a practitioner of telemedicine and a technology executive.

“The IH technologies broadcast the caregiver in life-size form, with direct eye contact, and in 3D,” Sommer said. “All of this is accomplished using only 750 kbps of data, an amount small enough to allow its use in the most rural communities and is so efficient it works on 4G.”

It is the only system of its kind with these capabilities and is supported by more than a dozen patents. By using the IH technologies, health systems can make, keep and grow relationships with patients in ways that have never been possible before.

Since the creation and adoption of IH technologies, thousands of patients have been able to have natural and rich interactions with their clinicians.

“It has reduced the need for patients and their families to travel and it has increased the viability of local health care resources,” Sommer said.

It is always challenging to get health systems to switch from their existing technologies to new ones. Sommer said IH had to make a strong case for its value proposition and support its customers with more than just the sale of equipment.

IH helps by providing guidance on rules, regulations, billing/coding, and telemedicine best practices.

“Innovation in health care is critically important. When innovation is perfectly aligned, it allows the medical community to deliver the highest quality care, at the lowest prices, to the largest number of patients.”

— Darren Sommer