As a social work graduate student, I worked in a medical hospital. One of my projects included studying the “revolving door” patients — those individuals who came into the emergency room on a regular basis.
Some of these patients came into the hospital for chronic issues, such as back pain and breathing difficulties. I identified the patients who lived alone. With their permission, I began calling them on a regular basis to check on them.
Sometimes they wanted to talk about their health. At other times, they wanted to share stories about the past. I allowed them to talk about whatever they wanted and just listened.
Then, we tracked their emergency room visits. Once the calls began, their hospital visits were greatly reduced.
I think there were two reasons those phone calls reduced their visits to the hospital: they felt less lonely, which helped them feel better physically, and feeling connected with someone meant they were less likely to go to the emergency room simply to have human contact.
That was just a graduate school project with a small sample, and not exactly a peer-reviewed study. But it did give the hospital some interesting feedback about how they might be able to support some of their frequent emergency room visitors.