(Image courtesy of Airapy)
About one year ago, Airapy founder Rachel Cox launched the online therapy startup as a solution for others needing accessible mental health care after struggling to find her own.
The platform was built for those open to “walk and talk” therapy, which differs from traditional in-office meetings, and instead take place at a coffee shop, in a park or another public space. There are ground rules and previously agreed-upon mechanisms if, say, patient and provider run into acquaintances.
Users could book an appointment with a handful of independently contracted therapists on the platform during various open time slots. And after the relaunch, which happened this month, all of this remains true.
But after meeting technical cofounder Alfonso Jimenez on Indie Hackers, a site that connects people looking to work on technical projects together, the pair have revamped the platform, changing its look, its URL (now Airapy.io) and adding more features. The pair was planning a relaunch for April 1, but the concept of walk-and-talk therapy is more difficult during times of practicing social distancing, the South Philly-based Cox told Technical.ly.
So, she thought more about messaging, and realized that accessibility to mental health resources is as central to the startup now, during stay-at-home orders, as it was a year ago. So, Jimenez built a HIPAA-compliant telahealth chat feature using WebRTC that runs on the platform and will allow appointments to occur virtually for the time being.
“This technology allows establishing encrypted direct communication between both therapist and patient,” Cox said. “Airapy just acts as a broker for establishing the call.”
Airapy runs entirely on AWS, Cox said, and the startup has signed a business agreement with Amazon which protects health information and honors HIPAA regulation. Cox said she knew that for accessibility purposes, a video chat feature would always be in the plans, but the coronavirus pandemic definitely heightened the timeline.
“Let’s make booking therapy as easy as booking a restaurant reservation,” she said of the platform’s mission. “There’s no guessing if they’re taking new appointments.”
Currently, there are about 50 therapists in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Florida who can be found on the site, and appointments can be booked directly on the platform. Each therapist’s page includes a bio with information about which topics they specialize in, like life changes, relationship issues or mental health disorders.
“We’re really kind of trying to disrupt Psychology Today,” Cox said, noting that many seekers of therapy often look to that platform first.
On Airapy’s platform, someone seeking care can search for nearby clinicians, available times or session costs. For a user, the experience is similar to searching through Psychology Today, but without the steps of figuring out if the therapist is accepting new patients or when they’re available, Cox said.
From the clinician side, Airapy offers much more, she said. Currently, therapists on Airapy are only taking direct payments, but the cofounder said integrating insurance into the platform is in upcoming plans. There are also plans to offer a suite of tools like booking, practice management and HIPAA-compliant note storage that would allow therapists to operate much of their practice online.
For now, the business model is supported through bookings made on the platform: Clinicians keep 90% of their appointment fee, and Airapy keeps 4% and 6% goes to the payment processing service. Therapists also pay a $25 one-time new client fee.
While Cox said her initial plan to reintroduce the walk-and-talk therapy startup this spring has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, she realizes it makes her mission of accessible mental health care even more pertinent.
“COVID-19 has been horrible for everyone, but I wonder if more people will be inclined to try walk-and-talk therapy after this,” she said, “or maybe more interested in trying other modes of therapy.”-30-
Fintech startup Nth Round aims to help company leaders, employees manage their equity
Temple’s SBDC launches two new resource centers to help small businesses thrive past the pandemic
Money Moves: These 8 Philly-area companies raised more than $118M total this spring
Philly PPE’s vending machines can replenish your mask supply starting this month
Sign-up for daily news updates from Technical.ly Philadelphia