Last month, the increasingly popular “family-on-demand” startup Papa said its goal was to be available in all 50 states by January 2021. The company has officially checked that new year’s resolution off of its list
Founded in 2017, Miami-based Papa is a membership-based platform that mostly connects college students — or “Papa Pals” — and older adults. Papa Pals provide seniors companionship and general assistance, including transportation services and similar task-based help.
By providing such valuable services, Papa hopes to lower an individual’s chance of hospitalization and other negative health events. On a more human level, the company simply wants to help seniors stay connected, especially amid “an isolation epidemic” linked to the COVID-19 virus.
Papa doesn’t just do family on-demand anymore, however. It recently expanded its services to include health management, with the launch of Papa Health in December.
Papa Health is a virtual care platform that gives seniors access to Papa Docs, a network of board-certified and licensed clinicians that includes doctors, nurse practitioners and behavioral health providers.
The national availability of Papa’s services supports expansion with the company’s health plan partners for Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and employer benefits, Papa founder and CEO Andrew Parker told Home Health Care News.
“Papa can support health plans across the country now,” he said. “We’ve proven that we can go from just south Florida to many states, and now we feel very excited about expanding nationally. Health plans are now able to support these members socially, and they recognize that social determinants of health have huge negative impacts on people’s lives.”
Currently, Papa’s services are available through health plan providers such as Aetna, AvMed, Florida Blue Medicare, Humana, Priority Health, Regence Blue Shield and others.
For potentially isolated seniors across the U.S., Papa’s national push means addressing the loneliness epidemic head-on.
In 2019, 34% of adults between the ages of 50 and 80 reported feeling a lack of companionship or isolation, according to data from the University of Michigan. That figure has undoubtedly worsened due to the public health emergency.
“Just imagine an 80-year-old woman living by herself,” Parker said. “She doesn’t really know how to use technology, doesn’t have that many family members, doesn’t have a car — a lot can go wrong in this situation. Pairing her with a Pal that calls her, video chats and, when appropriate, shows up to be a friend and provide companionship … is life-altering for these older adults.”
As a company, pulling off this national expansion required a team-wide effort, along with a platform that supported this major move.
“It was all hands on deck, everything from tech to sales, recruiting, account management, finance,” Parker said. “It also has a lot to do with our platform. We’ve built this incredibly robust platform that, from a technology perspective, manages visits and the data collected, the interactions, and who we pair [together]. That system has been built from the beginning for us to be able to scale nationally.”
In addition to Papa’s national expansion, the company also launched a new app with the goal of improving user experience for its Papa Pals.
“We built a Papa Pal app, which is the platform that the Pals used to access visits, review their members, take on more jobs,” Parker said. “We took feedback from thousands of Pals … to really understand exactly what is the most critical thing to provide the best experience.”