Papa CEO and Founder Andrew Parker first came up with the idea for his company from his own experience. His grandfather, who he endearingly called Papa, needed companionship.
“I thought, what if Papa — that’s what we called him — had a pal? So I put it up on Facebook: ‘Who wants to be a pal to my Papa?’ I got a few people who responded and I paired him with someone,” Parker said in an interview at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas last week. “It was not a business idea, it was a way to help my grandpa. He didn’t need bathing and toileting, and I think it gave him a lot of dignity and true independence because he didn’t want to feel like he needed to be cared for. So this kind of allowed him to just feel like he had a friend.”
Although it didn’t start as a business idea, it did eventually grow into a business. Parker founded Miami-based Papa in May of 2017. It works with health plans and employers to connect companions with those who need companionship, as well as help with everyday tasks, transportation and other needs. And now, with a series of recently released studies, the company has results to back it up.
Findings from the studies include:
- Among SummaCare Medicare Advantage members who used Papa, there were 34% fewer emergency department high utilizers (those with four or more emergency department visits in a year) than members who didn’t use the service. Papa users also had an 11% lower hospital readmission rate. This study used claims data from 1,420 SummaCare MA enrollees who used Papa and compared them to 1,420 SummaCare MA members who didn’t use the company.
- Another study done by Papa found that 60% of those considered “severely lonely” based on the UCLA Three-Item Loneliness Scale showed significant clinical improvements and moved to a lower category of loneliness. For that 60%, the number of mentally unhealthy days for this population reduced by more than six days and the number of physically unhealthy days reduced by two days. This study analyzed 435 Papa users.
- Among 163 Meridian Medicaid members who actively use Papa, there was a 50% increase in cervical cancer screenings, a 46% increase in diabetic eye exams and a 35% increase in HcA1C testing six months after enrolling in the program, compared to before enrolling.
- Additionally, there was a 33% decrease in overall healthcare costs, a 14% decrease in hospital readmissions and a 25% decrease in emergency department visits among the same Meridian Medicaid population.
These findings are promising for the company, as loneliness can lead to a bout of other medical issues, Parker said. A recent survey of 2,601 older adults by Medicare Advantage insurer Alignment Healthcare found that 21% of respondents ranked loneliness and isolation as top factors causing stress and mental health issues.
“Loneliness is a disease,” he said. “There are many other issues associated with it. It’s kind of this issue where other things are exacerbated because of it. If you’re lonely, you’re isolated. You don’t have a car, you’re not going to the doctor. You’re not going to eat healthy, you’re going to the ED more often because it’s a place you may feel comfortable when you have an ailment.”
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