Papa CEO and founder Andrew Parker first came up with the idea for his company from his own experience. His grandfather, whom he affectionately called Dad, needed company.
“I thought, what if Dad — as we called him — had a boyfriend? So I put it on Facebook: ‘Who wants to be my dad’s friend?’ I got a few people who responded and I put him in touch with someone,” Parker said in an interview with HLTH conference in Las Vegas last week. “It wasn’t a business idea, it was a way to help my grandfather. He didn’t need a bath or a toilet and I think that gave him a lot of dignity and real independence because he didn’t want to feel like he needed care. So it allowed him to feel like a friend.
Although it did not start as a business idea, it eventually grew into a business. Parker founded the Miami-based father in May 2017. Works with health plans and employers to connect companions with those who need companionship, as well as help with daily tasks, transportation and other needs. And now, with a series of recently published studies, the company has results to back it up.
Findings from studies include:
- Among SummaCare Medicare Advantage members who used Papa, there were 34% fewer people in the emergency room with high utilization (those with four or more emergency room visits in a year) than members who did not 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 did not use the company.
- Another study conducted by Papa found that 60% of those who considered themselves “very lonely” based on UCLA Three-Point Loneliness Scale showed significant clinical improvements and moved into a lower category of loneliness. For that 60%, the number of mentally unhealthy days for this population decreased by more than six days, and the number of physically unhealthy days decreased by two days. This study analyzed 435 Papa users.
- Among 163 Meridian Medicaid members actively using Papa, there was a 50% increase in cervical cancer screenings, a 46% increase in diabetic eye exams and a 35% increase in HcA1C tests six months after enrolling in the program, compared to before the recording.
- In addition, there was a 33% reduction in total health care costs, a 14% reduction in hospital readmissions and a 25% reduction in emergency department visits among the same Meridian Medicaid population.
These findings are promising for the company because loneliness can lead to an onset of other medical problems, Parker said. A recent survey of 2,601 older adults by insurer Medicare Advantage Alignment Healthcare found that 21% of respondents ranked loneliness and isolation as the leading factors causing stress and mental health problems.
“Loneliness is a disease,” he said. “There are many other issues associated with this. It’s the kind of problem where other things get exacerbated because of it. If you’re lonely, you’re isolated. You don’t have a car, you won’t go to the doctor. You won’t eat healthy, you’ll go to the emergency room more often because it’s a place where you can feel comfortable when you have an illness.
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