Papa, Uber Health team up to coordinate rides for seniors to tackle social isolation

Papa, the startup tackling loneliness among seniors, is teaming up with Uber Health to make it easier for older adults and their "Papa pals" to get to medical appointments and other events.

The nationwide partnership aims at reducing barriers to transportation access and mitigating social isolation and negative health outcomes among America's vulnerable populations, the organizations said.

Papa connects seniors with Papa Pals, or a "grandchild on-demand," who will visit with them and assist with light housework, grocery shopping, technology and transportation to doctors' appointments. Late last year, Papa also got into virtual care with its Papa Health program, which connects users with Papa Docs in virtual visits.

Through the new partnership, Papa's care team will coordinate between Uber Health and Pals to facilitate easy transportation for Pal-supported medical appointments, errands and community events. Now, with Papa, Uber Health will help address social isolation, while also augmenting its health plan partnerships, the company said.

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"Our national Uber Health partnership is about so much more than getting from A to B," said Andrew Parker, founder and CEO of Papa, in a statement. "Companionship is a critical component to a successful transportation ride, especially for older adults. Together we are able to help members with rides while providing a great social interaction and assistance. It's the perfect synergy."

Papa and Uber Health are focused on partnering more broadly, beyond rides. Uber Health executives point out that the company has the ability to provide tech-enabled solutions that can address the holistic needs of the older adult population—including healthy meals, grocery delivery, and prescription delivery using the Uber Eats platform.

Papa, which launched in 2017, has seen rapid growth and now operates in all 50 states. Papa partners with more than 40 of the country's largest insurers, including Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and employer plans.

As the older adult population continues to grow in the US, there are still critical gaps in care left by the traditional health care ecosystem. This population faces rising rates of social isolation and loneliness, with over half of older adults now considering themselves socially isolated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent study.

Growing research on the "loneliness epidemic" points to a correlation between social isolation and mortality. Lonely people are 50% more likely to die prematurely than those with healthy social relationships, according to a 2010 study.

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Since launching in 2018, Uber Health has worked alongside health care providers, non-emergency medical transportation brokers and other organizations in the continuum of care to coordinate rides for those who need them most.

"Too often older adult populations are limited by barriers to care, whether it is due to transportation access or feelings of isolation from their communities and loved ones," said Caitlin Donovan, global head of Uber Health, in a statement. "Uber Health is uniquely positioned to provide its logistics platform and technology to make requesting transportation or deliveries easier for Papa members and Papa Pals. We're proud to work with Papa to address the chronic needs of vulnerable populations and their companions, and in turn, improve long-term health outcomes."

Members and Papa Pals do not need to have a smartphone, credit card, or Uber app to use the service. Papa's care coordinators can coordinate transportation for Papa members or Papa Pals directly through the Uber Health platform.