Pediatric nurse Michele Davey had been working at CHOP for about 25 years and had seen her patients in all states of illness and injury.
Families with sick kids were not only fighting their children’s illnesses, but also a host of mental health challenges and stress, she said. Davey began thinking of solutions that could help lessen these additional issues, in and outside of the hospital, and found herself wondering how tech could implement a solution she’d used in her own home — dogs and other pets that can provide stress relief.
“I have rescue dogs, and they offer me a bond that is so special,” Davey told Technical.ly. “I wanted to be able to offer that wherever you are.”
So, three years ago, while still at CHOP, Davey began building what would be known as Murphy Cares, an app that allows users to dial up a friendly pup to for on-demand companionship, to eat, play or rest with. The dogs were filmed doing a variety of tasks and interactions so that a user specifically seeking out a pup to share a meal with or have a pet will be able to do so 24/7. The app costs $69.99 a year or $399 for a lifetime subscription for full, anytime access.
Davey began building a team, and brought on cofounder Dr. Bonnie Offit, a pediatrician and chief digital health officer at Self Care Decisions, as well as Julia Geer as the company’s CEO.
In 2019, Davey went through the summer cohort of Pennovation’s accelerator program to further develop the business. The team has bootstrapped the company so far, and outsourced the technical construction of the app.
The trio is running the company right now, and is gearing up for a friends and family round of fundraising before releasing a new version of the app on the app store around the holidays. Along with more dogs coming to the app, there will also be more interactions and activities.
“I created this app to give people a friend,” Davey said. “People can feel really helpless, but with Murphy Cares, they’re in control.”
Davey said she remains at CHOP as a nurse innovator, although she is furloughed at the moment. But her innovation knowledge was self-taught. She is a Mack Technology Fellow at The Wharton School, and is learning as she goes as a founder after so many years in nursing.
“I felt I was at a time in my life where I had the energy to be able to do this, and believed in what I was creating,” the founder said. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life, it’s been a true roller coaster, but I’m proud of what I’m doing and I know the impact of what it’s going to do for people.”
— MurphyCares (@murphy_cares) November 21, 2020