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Thanks to a med student, house calls are just a click away

USC team develops an app that makes prompt health care both affordable and accessible

nurse practitioner
WhiteCoat brings nurse practitioners to a patient's home. (Photo/iStock)

As a USC medical student, Mike Kwon has seen discrepancies in the American health care system.

After rotating through the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center, Kwon took a family medicine rotation at a New York City medical practice that serviced the wealthiest 1 percent. Out of this 1 percent, he noticed that approximately .01 percent were able to access luxury concierge house call services not available to the general public.

Call a doctor

On campus one day, Kwon began to feel ill. His time at med school and an analysis of his symptoms helped him to determine he had strep throat. Even though he knew what it was, Kwon 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 health care service he saw in New York could not be made available to the public.

Kwon is currently working on his master’s in biomedical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and his M.D. from the Keck School of Medicine of USC. He added engineering as a result of his involvement in the Health, Technology and Engineering program that combines the teachings of both engineering and medicine to promote health care advances.

HTE@USC opened my mind to how engineering and health could intersect.

Mike Kwon

“I came to USC because of HTE@USC,” Kwon said. “It opened my mind to how engineering and health could intersect.”

First Uber, then WhiteCoat

Fusing his interests in health care and engineering, Kwon pursued a graduate program at the USC Marshall School of Business, where he met the founders of WhiteCoat, a service similar to Uber.

Enrolled in a technology feasibility class with Angella Nguyen and Emilianos Ellinas, 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 development of WhiteCoat.

Created in the mold of Uber, WhiteCoat allows providers to log in to a system as “available”; when patients need care, they click on an app, entering their insurance information, symptoms and location. A list of available providers in the area then will appear on screen. The patient picks a provider and an appointment is promptly set up. Pricing is being determined but it is intended to be affordable — with two price points for those with insurance and without.

Make it affordable

Why nurse practitioners? 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 nurse practitioner 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 affordable.

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

WhiteCoat received funding from the USC Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program, which is supported through the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation.

WhiteCoat’s website launched on Sept. 9. Kwon is the company’s CEO and head of health care operations; Nguyen is responsible for marketing; Ellinas maintains operations and strategy. Ryan Kaminsky came on board as the head of product development.

“My dream,” Kwon said, “is to build WhiteCoat, allow it to grow and then become a doctor and use this myself.”

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Thanks to a med student, house calls are just a click away

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