Logo: University of Southern California

House Calls for All

USC students develop an app that makes immediate house calls affordable and accessible
By: Kathleen Concialdi
October 07, 2015 —
WhiteCoat brings nurse practitioners to patient's homes. Credit: iStock

As a USC medical student, Mike Kwon, saw firsthand the discrepancies in the American healthcare system. After rotating through LAC+USC Medical Center, Mike went on a family medicine rotation on the Upper East Side of New York City, at a medical practice that serviced the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. Out of this 1 percent, Mike noticed that approximately .01 percent were able to access luxury concierge house call services not available to the general public.

One day, back on campus, Kwon began to feel sick. His time at med school and an analysis of his symptoms helped him to determine he had strep throat. Although he knew what it was, he needed a doctor to diagnose him and prescribe the appropriate medication. He went to the student health center and found he had a wait of three weeks. He then began to wonder why the elite concierge healthcare service he saw in New York could not be made more available to the general public, offering quality care more quickly.

Kwon is currently working on his Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering as well as his M.D. from the Keck School of Medicine of USC. As a student in both fields, he became involved in the Health, Technology, and Engineering (HTE) program that combines the teachings of both engineering and medicine to promote healthcare advances. “I came to USC because of HTE@USC. It opened my mind to how engineering and health could intersect” Kwon said. Taking his interest in health and engineering, Mike pursued the Technology Commercialization Graduate Certificate Program, a graduate program at the USC Marshall School of Business, and met the other founders of WhiteCoat.

Mike was in a Technology Feasibility class with Angella Nguyen and Emilianos Ellinas. The objective of the class is to understand the commercialization of technology and the challenges facing tech startups. As part of the class, the team was tasked with creating a technology and analyzing its ease of use. Drawing on Kwon’s past experience, the team began its initial phases in the development of WhiteCoat.

They developed a website and app that brings a nurse practitioner, a licensed clinician similar to a doctor, to a patient’s home. Working in a similar fashion as Uber, WhiteCoat allows providers to log in to the system as “available” and when a patient needs care, they log in to the app or website, enter in their insurance information, symptoms, and location. A list of available providers in their area will show. The patient picks a provider and an appointment is set up immediately. Pricing is being determined but is intended to be affordable — with two price points, considering those with insurance and those without.

WhiteCoat focused on using nurse practitioners as their main source of provider. Kwon noted that “doctors have the ability to moonlight,” working in emergency rooms or urgent cares for extra pay, “but nurse practitioners don’t always have that option.” In many states, a NP is licensed to do many of the same things a doctor does — prescribing, diagnosing, treating, and managing acute, “everyday” medical conditions — while being more available and more affordable.

Credit: WhiteCoat

Kwon says, “WhiteCoat’s mission is to offer every patient the opportunity for an affordable house call, a service traditionally not available to the masses.”

Recently, WhiteCoat received funding from the USC Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program, a program through the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation that provides grants for innovative ideas in the field of science and technology. The foundation’s gift helped WhiteCoat receive more funding from venture capitalists and other accredited investors, which allowed them to set up space in a startup incubator, build a prototype and hire more staff to quickly launch the company’s website and app.

Kwon credits USC’s interdisciplinary programs for WhiteCoat’s successes. “I thank USC. At Keck I had the opportunity to see pain points and discrepancies in healthcare. In the HTE program, I saw the intersection of health and engineering. In biomedical engineering I saw the engineering side of health care.” Kwon continues to say that by studying business he was able to learn how to launch a successful startup and the relationship with Coulter, he was able to see how to experience the fundraising needed to fund such startups. Clearly, many pieces of USC have brought WhiteCoat to where it is today.

WhiteCoat’s website; whitecoat.healthcare; launched on September 9th with the original founders still at the helm. Kwon is the CEO and head of healthcare operations; Nguyen is responsible for marketing; Ellinas maintains WhiteCoat’s operation and strategy; and Ryan Kaminsky came on board as the head of product development. As Ellinas stated, “We’re die hard Trojans.”

The team is excited to see the company grow. Kwon believes that “the sign of a great product is one that you would use yourself. “My dream,” he said, “is to build WhiteCoat, allow it to grow and then become a doctor and use this myself”.