This month on Talking with Tangible we had the fantastic opportunity to speak with Dr. Aaron Wolf from the Austin Optometry Group about his eye care practice, and how he is incorporating the use of both Tangible Hydra-PEG and Tangible Clean ! Dr. Wolf had a great amount of insight into his practice history and what they are doing to help patients every day, and we want to thank him for taking the time to be a guest on our program.
Tell us about your Eye Care Practice!
I own a private practice in Austin, Texas. It was a two doctor practice prior to the doctor I bought it from retiring; now I’m just a solo practitioner with 6 staff members. The practice has been around since 1976 so has a good sized patient base with a lot of aging patients, but we’re in central Austin in a good area of town so we are seeing the demographics slowly shift to some younger families as well. We’re a bit on the larger size with a little over 3600 sq ft and 4 lanes and a lot of equipment. The practice was an OD/MD practice for a long time before the OMD retired maybe 20 years ago, so patient base has always been used to the medical model.
We bill primarily medical insurance but currently do take one vision plan as well. The office is well equipped with all the usual equipment such as topography, OCT, retinal camera, anterior segment cameras, Meibomian gland imaging, etc. We’ve got two corneal topographers and just ordered a scleral topographer that I’m excited about. My personal practice is set up that I do primary care 3 days a week, medical visits a half day a week, and only specialty contact lenses 1 ½ days per week. My specialty lens patients are a little from our practice and mostly referrals from local cornea surgeons around town.
What led you to optometry, and contact lenses as a specialty?
What led me to optometry was mostly the marriage of a medical practice with small business. I was always drawn to the idea that optometry allowed for a wide variety of practice modalities, like single offices or multiple offices, working full time or part time, serving in rural or urban communities, just a lot of diversity in how you can practice optometry and make a good life doing it and enjoying doing it the way you want to.
Contact lenses as a specialty I kind of fell into accidentally. I’m a 2009 graduate from University of Houston College of Optometry and started practicing in Austin right out of school because I met an older doc who was wanting to sell his practice. He was a 1964 grad from UH, so he had a large contact lens practice and wanted to convert it to a more medical model and treat glaucoma and what not, which was largely where my interest was at training was at that time. But, when I started out my schedule was just really slow so I had a lot of time to study about different things and long story short I started seeing some of his GP patients and to his credit he had several scleral lens sets and hybrid sets way back in 2009, so because I had the time and had him there to help or consult with if I needed it, I just kind of dove in and found that I loved it.
It was extremely rewarding, extremely interesting, and way more fun than the other stuff I thought I would enjoy coming out of school. So that, plus I was fit into ortho k my 2nd year of OD school, I also built up a good sized ortho k practice early on so I was just kind of off out of the gates at that point.
How does Tangible Hydra-PEG fit into your practice?
Tangible Hydra-PEG has been huge for me and my practice, as I’m sure is the case for everyone that’s used it. We just automatically order it on all scleral lenses. I’ve got a few patients doing well in their lenses from prior to Hydra-PEG being available and if they’re looking good I don’t mess with it but otherwise, everyone gets it. I describe it in the room in the same way I describe anti-reflective coating for our glasses, I compare it to airbags or rearview cameras or anything else that’s come along like that, if the technology has made it available why wouldn’t you do it?
It’s almost silly to buy a vehicle without those features now if they’re available; it’s the same with the Hydra-PEG coating on the lenses. If it’ll keep your lenses more comfortable and cleaner and lasting longer, for a nominal charge, then it basically doesn’t make sense not to add it. Obviously much of the lens manufacturing industry feels the same as a lot of our more premium scleral lens designs are coming with the Hydra-PEG already included unless specified otherwise.
Tell me about a memorable Tangible Hydra-PEG patient or moment?
I’ve got a couple patients who have had either birth defects in which their eyelids don’t close fully or have had significant facial surgery leading to the same, and prior to the Hydra-PEG it was a heck of a time trying to keep them clean. It’s still something we work on and for most cases like that I’ll have the patient buy two lenses for that eye to swap out mid-day, but since the Hydra-PEG came available a few years ago, it’s been a life saver. Those patients can really tell a difference compared to before. Comfort is better but the thing they really notice is their vision is so much better when a dry lens surface isn’t caked up with a bunch of deposits.
Have you tried Tangible Clean at your practice yet?
Yes I have. A lot of our corneal and scleral gas perm patients are still in some other multipurpose solutions, but a few of them I’ve switched over to Tangible Clean and many of our new fits I’m just starting them off in it off the bat.
What have you noticed, or what have your patients told you about Tangible Clean?
What I’ve noticed is that it’s much less viscous than its closest competitors, so a little cleaner to handle the lenses with (no pun intended) and washes off the lens better prior to inserting. With our scleral patients we like for them to rinse their storage solutions off their lenses with sterile saline prior to insertion, which with some of the thicker ones that can be harder to do.
Patients seem pleased with it. No complaints from any so far. I usually explain it as the solution designed to accompany the special coating on their lenses, so should help keep their lenses lasting longer.
How do you recommend your patients get Tangible Clean?
So, we have it on our webstore, along with about 400 other products now. We have two online stores for our eye care practice, one for eyewear selections prior to their visit, and the other which we have everything from contacts to contact lens solutions to dry eye therapies to vitamins, etc.
The system that works great for us is that my staff registers all our patients into our webstore when they arrive at the office then when I’m in the room with them I review their anterior segment photos, retinal photos, OCTs, etc. and talk to them about what we’re seeing and then I can login as the Admin into the store and drop items that I’m recommending directly into their shopping cart for them while explaining each product. So then all they have to do is go home and login themselves and complete the checkout. Most of our products have an option to subscribe to the product as well so they automatically get a shipment every month or 3 months or whatever depending on the product, but this has been really successful for us. I just checked my report before our call tonight and we’ve made just $1000 off the webstore purchases this month and only been open 2 weeks and I’m only scheduling one patient per hour currently due to the COVID restrictions and just reopening.
I’ve sold several bottles of Tangible Clean that way just by talking about it while I have it up on the screen and dropping it into their cart. Traditionally, a lot of my patients didn’t buy the things we wanted them to, but it wasn’t because they were trying to shop around and save a few bucks. It was because of confusion. Products sound the same, or look the same, maybe they’d lose the sheet of paper we give them with our recommendations, or just resort to something they’re familiar with…If they know that you recommend Tangible Clean and you can find a way to easily get it to them then they’ll be successful and you will too.
Dr. Aaron Wolf’s Background
Dr. Aaron T. Wolf, a therapeutic optometrist and optometric glaucoma specialist, received his Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Baylor University before pursuing his Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Houston. He has been in private practice in Austin, Texas since 2009 and is the owner of Austin Optometry Group, an eye care practice in north central Austin. Dr. Wolf is highly trained and experienced in all ocular diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. Dr. Wolf’s special interest and practice emphasis is in dry eye syndrome, ocular surface diseases, and specialty contact lenses for difficult-to-fit eyes, including scleral lenses, corneal gas permeable lenses, custom soft lenses, cosmetic/prosthetic lenses, and orthokeratology (aka Ortho-k). He co-manages LASIK and cataract surgery, and is one of the few doctors in the region who regularly provides orthokeratology corneal reshaping treatment to fully correct vision without the use of daily wear contacts, glasses, or even LASIK (Dr. Wolf uses the orthokeratology therapy on himself for his vision). He is experienced with all the newest technology and imaging instruments available today that enhance the ability to provide premium eye care. Dr. Wolf also regularly provides routine optometric care and pediatric eye exams.
Dr. Wolf is a member of the American Academy of Orthokeratology and Myopia Control, Scleral Lens Society, American Optometric Association, Texas Optometric Association, Central Texas Optometric Society, and the Ocular Nutrition Society. He has served multiple terms as President of the Central Texas Optometric Society, one of Texas’ largest regional optometric societies, as well as a selected member of numerous committees of the Texas Optometric Association. He is a Key Opinion Leader and national speaker for Johnson & Johnson Vision Care and SynergEyes contact lenses, as well as Medmont International, an ophthalmic diagnostic imaging company based out of Australia. Dr. Wolf also serves on numerous not-for-profit and for-profit clinical advisory boards. Dr. Wolf is the eye doctor contracted with the State of Texas to provide care to the residents of the Austin State Supported Living Center, for those with advanced intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Dr. Wolf is a native Texan, born and raised in San Antonio and growing up around the Texas hill country and gulf coast. In his free time he enjoys trail running, following all things Baylor Bears, and being active in his church community. He has also served on several medical mission trips to Haiti and looks forward to the next opportunity to serve overseas. Dr. Wolf is an open book, ask him anything you’d like to know and he’ll be happy to share!
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