Idea: Availability aggregator for individual service providers

One interesting problem I ran into recently while trying to help my mom find a therapist is that, while there are several big directories (e.g. Psychology Today), none of them seem to actually indicate whether a therapist is taking new clients! No way to filter by that criteria.

Now this is probably in good part because the practitioners are unaware of or unwilling to or uninterested in updating their status on one or more of these sites. This may be due to a variety of factors, some of which may be difficult to overcome.

That said, there may be a way to create an efficient, easy to use platform where a variety of service providers can set their status quickly. This could include not just mental and other health providers, but also lawyers, etc. (which is another one I’ve recently run into as an issue)

If I could solve the problem of getting users to update their status in general (and I have some ideas for that), and provide an API, then hopefully directories would have incentive to connect their platforms to our status database. This is a real chicken and egg problem though: on one end you have the service providers, who don’t have incentive to sign-up for the “availability aggregator/platform” unless it already supports directories they participate in. And on the other side you have the directories, who don’t have incentive to implement an aggregator’s API unless they have a significant number of users already, whose status they could meaningfully make use of in their existing directories.

Some ideas to maybe help overcome some of these issues, one broad area of which could be to focus on ease of use for service providers.

  • Providing a variety of methods to update status easily, especially without visiting a website
    • Text
    • Email
  • Providing website widgets to show status
  • Regular reminders to update status
    • Need to find a way to make it unobtrusive and not annoying, and/or provide enough additional value to users that they don’t unsubscribe from these