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CEO's Military Experience Shapes Telemedicine Health Across Rural Arkansas

During a 15-month deployment to Afghanistan with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, Dr. Sommer was exposed to numerous medical issues his suburban medical residency didn’t contain. Luckily, Dr. Sommer had access to the Army’s telemedicine infrastructure which allowed him to consult with colleagues around the world to provide better care to his patients on the battlefield. Upon his return home, his first civilian job as a physician landed him in rural areas of North Carolina. While in North Carolina, he saw numerous challenges that he experienced in Afghanistan, but this time, there was no telemedicine infrastructure to confer with experts outside of the local area. He began studying, reading, and then writing about the challenges of care in rural America and the role of telemedicine and decided that he wanted to develop a solution to better serve rural America through telemedicine. Eventually he set out to create a telemedicine platform specifically designed by a physician that could maximize the patient experience and ensure that a patient physician relationship could still be fostered through technology, despite their physical distance.

In 2015, Dr. Sommer decided to leave the security of traditional practice and start Innovator Health. With an investment of his own money, he developed a telemedicine prototype called the ROUNDER. This technology allowed the physician to be at the patient’s bedside in 3-D life-size form, with direct eye contact. It was, and still is, the most immersive telemedicine system ever created. Dr. Sommer used the prototype ROUNDER to secure his first sales contract and then worked with his local bank to obtain a $250,000 SBA guaranteed loan and coupled that with an additional line of credit to fund the development of additional units. "The start of Innovator Health would not have been possible without the support of the SBA," said Dr. Sommer.

“The ROUNDER helps extend personalized healthcare services to patients wherever they reside,” continued Dr. Sommer.  Dr. Sommer and the Innovator Health team started working with Innovate Arkansas, a state-funded initiative that helps scale promising Arkansas technology ventures in 2017 which has helped the company find greater footing in Arkansas. Now, the team is looking to make Jonesboro their new home with the assistance from the Innovate Arkansas team. The start-up road has not been easy for Dr. Sommer. He still spends more than half of the year on the road visiting with prospective customers and helping hospitals set up their telemedicine programs. Currently, Innovator Health is a certified Veteran Owned Small Business focused on increasing its government sales through the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration.