Hopper Health, a new provider of virtual primary care and healthcare navigation services for neurodivergent adults, has launched.
The company is founded and led by Katya Siddall-Cipolla, a neurodivergent healthcare veteran with firsthand experience navigating confusion and discrimination in the U.S. healthcare system. Hopper will be available in California and New York and plans to expand nationally as demand grows, according to an announcement shared exclusively in advance with Fierce Healthcare.
It's estimated 1 in 5 adults globally experience neurodivergent conditions like autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are more likely to avoid care due to previous negative healthcare interactions, Hopper argues. They are also more likely to have comorbidities. On top of that, most medical students do not feel adequately informed about treating autistic patients, and just 3% of physicians self-identify as having a disability.
As a digital-first personalized platform, Hopper aims to support neurodivergent adults by connecting them with care navigators and clinicians trained in the communication and sensory needs of this population.
“There’s just so much pent-up demand, and there’s just nothing else out there,” Siddall-Cipolla told Fierce Healthcare. Before starting Hopper, Siddall-Cipolla was vice president of product development and innovation at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and led digital customer strategy for Blues plans in several states.
To hear more from Siddall-Cipolla about the nuanced care needed for neurodegenerative adults, listen to our podcast Podnosis
Diagnosed with autism and ADHD in her late 30s, Siddall-Cipolla has struggled for years to be taken seriously as a patient. For more than a decade, she described her gastrointestinal symptoms to doctors and was ignored. Eventually, she was hospitalized and diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. She now has to be on infusion medication for the rest of her life.
That is why Hopper is focused on primary care, she said: “The value of primary care providers that actually listen without bias to folks who have diagnoses like a category of neurodivergence cannot be overstated.”
The first phase of Hopper will be DTC for $99 in a monthly all-included model, and Hopper will facilitate in-network referrals for those with insurance. The company wants to pivot quickly to value-based care and has decided not to pursue payer contracts, Siddall-Cipolla said. According to Hopper’s own research, most neurodivergent adults are employed and insured.
Having a payer contract could disincentivize Hopper’s target customers if they need to pay a copay or out of pocket in a high-deductible plan any time they want to see a doctor. Hopper plans to expand Medicaid coverage in the future.
Siddall-Cipolla expects value-based care contracts to be with integrated systems or regional payers that have a heightened interest in specialty populations. Because much of neurodivergent patients’ healthcare costs are tied up in how the system fails them, that makes them a compelling value proposition to commercial payers, Siddall-Cipolla believes.
In a value-based model, care is patient-centric and accounts for critical elements of care not reimbursed in the traditional fee-for-service model.
“The actual time in the visit for more patients—most of the time, that is not the thing that determines whether or not that person will be able to follow through, follow up,” Siddall-Cipolla explained. “We also can allow providers to practice at the top of their license and spend the time.”
As someone who advocates for herself tirelessly in healthcare settings, Siddall-Cipolla is hyperfocused on the patient experience. She knows the importance of taking what she terms the “cognitive load” off patients, which can range from bright lights to dense paperwork. Hopper wants to embrace a collaborative care environment, because patients often know their own health best, Siddall-Cipolla said.
“We really want to be able to be the home for our patients and the hub for understanding the other parts of the ecosystem,” Siddall-Cipolla said.
Hopper also plans to connect patients to social support via peer navigators. Eventually, Hopper would like to provide some social service programs itself directly.
Despite the current economic downturn and limited funding for startups, this is a great time to build this type of company, Siddall-Cipolla believes. There is less pressure to grow at all costs and more room to be thoughtful about the patient experience. Thus far, Hopper has raised some angel capital, but the first real round of funding will likely come after patients are onboarded, she said.
Hopper Health is currently hiring PCPs and peer navigators.