Episode #80 – A Prescription for Social Isolation with Andrew Parker, Founder & CEO of Papa

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

Every day in the US, 11,000 people turn 65 years old. By 2023 it’s estimated that there will be nearly 55 million seniors in the US, and by 2030, seniors will make up over 20% of the US population. The literature informs us that social isolation & loneliness is rampant – affecting over half of seniors. The literature also informs us that social isolation contributes to many unwanted outcomes, including: (1) depression and an overall sense of unhealthiness, (2) poor medication adherence; (3) increases in ED utilization & hospital admissions.

This problem is fueled by the fact that there are simply not enough healthcare professionals to provide the care seniors need, especially with growing shortages in primary care and nursing. And even if we had enough trained professionals, the costs would be unmanageable and unsustainable. There needs to be another solution – a reframing of healthcare and the healthcare workforce for senior care.

Here is where Papa enters the picture. Papa is an automated, on-demand service that assigns college-age students to spend time with seniors. The students, called Papa Pals, are carefully selected and provide seniors with companionship, non-clinical assistance at home, and transportation to local destinations such as the supermarket, pharmacy, and doctor’s office. And, as you’ll hear, Papa has expanded its services to non-seniors like postpartum women and family caregivers of older adults. Our guest this week is Andrew Parker, the founder & CEO of Papa. He started Papa to support his grandfather, whom he called Papa. Andrew has led Papa to raise over $13M in capital and expanded the service nationwide to support health plans, employers, and health systems. Prior to Papa, Andrew was an early employee at MDLIVE, one of the nation’s largest telehealth companies, where he ran health systems sales and product to bring the solution to over 30 million Americans.

In this interview, you’ll hear:

  • The significant problem of social isolation & loneliness, and the negative impact it has on healthcare utilization, costs and overall health and health outcomes.
  • How senior healthcare consumers are actually using Papa services, and why Medicare Advantage insurers are paying for this as a benefit in their products.
  • Some of the specific health metrics and outcomes Papa is measuring and improving.
  • How Andrew conceives of Papa as a new cloud-based healthcare delivery system – what he terms “pre-care”.
  • How Papa has expanded its services from “grandkids-on-demand” to “family-on demand”.

I had to listen to this interview a couple of times before I began to understand the enormity of what Andrew Parker is doing with Papa. He is reframing the American healthcare workforce. Prior to Papa, we relied solely on professionals such as nurses, social workers, paramedics, community health workers and care managers to provide in-home services. Papa has increased the healthcare workforce by literally tens of millions of people, simply by tapping college-age individuals. Andrew and his colleagues are creating “a new type of healthcare provider” and leading us to rethink what it means to be a healthcare provider.

Papa is a next-gen approach to the triple-aim. It’s a practical & innovative approach to solving for the social-determinants-of-health such as food insecurity and transportation. Parker is, in his own words, creating a new “cloud-based healthcare delivery system”.  This could not be accomplished without cutting-edge, cloud-based, digital technology and analytics. Without “the tech platform”, Papa would remain a local, community-based, largely manual, excel-spreadsheet type of enterprise. With the tech platform, it’s become an enterprise that delivers outstanding care and customer service that is convenient, personalized, highly responsive, cost-effective, and scale-able.

Despite the reliance on technology (or maybe because of the reliance on advanced cloud-based technology), the Papa approach is incredibly empathetic and humanistic. It reminds us that healthcare is fundamentally about trusting, healing relationships. Andrew initiated this approach as a way to take care of his own grandfather.  The origin of this company – the authentic and empathetic mission of taking care of Papa – infuses everything Andrew and his colleagues are doing. It’s an inspiring purpose, and a service that is desperately needed in our country and across the globe.

Until Next Time, Be Well.

Zeev Neuwirth MD