Clinician: ‘The world needs a wakeup call to tame the myopia beast’
Since 2016, Treehouse Eyes has offered myopia control solutions for children and prides itself on focusing exclusively on this objective. Co-founders Gary Gerber, OD, and vision care industry executive Matt Oerding called on world-renowned optometrists and ophthalmologists involved in research and clinical practice to help build the unique Treehouse Eyes environment.
Gerber discussed with Primary Care Optometry News the thought process behind this unique clinical model.
PCON: What was the impetus behind Treehouse Eyes?
Gerber: There are currently 10 million myopic kids in the U.S., and the incidence rate of myopia is rapidly increasing. It’s an even bigger problem in many countries outside the U.S. It’s predicted that by 2050, half of the planet will be myopic, with a fair number of those patients being highly myopic. My personal mission and reason for creating Treehouse Eyes was to eradicate myopia from the earth.
That may sound lofty, but if no one else is thinking that dramatically and really stating how serious a problem this will become – if left unchecked, things will keep getting worse. The consequences of increasing myopia go way beyond kids just needing stronger glasses every year. The ocular disease consequences are genuine, and when they affect millions of patients, frightening. The world needs a wakeup call to tame the myopia beast, and Treehouse Eyes is sounding the alarm and carrying the flag into the myopia battle.
PCON: How does a Treehouse Eyes clinic differ from a traditional OD or MD practice?
Gerber: We provide expert myopia care for kids only. We don’t see adults or offer any primary care. We don’t sell eyeglasses. We have our own patent-pending treatment protocol, the Treehouse Vision System, put together by our advisors who are literally the best myopia minds on earth. This essentially guides us toward the best treatment for each kid. We’re all myopia, all the time. While we do offer gas-permeable contact lenses for kids, we are not an orthokeratology center. That would be doing a great disservice to the kids. Instead, we offer the absolutely best, bar none, full-scope myopia care for kids. Period.
The centers themselves are unique. We challenged our design team to create a nurturing, non-intimidating, yet highly clinical environment that both parents and kids enjoy. We asked them to create a center where Chuck-E-Cheese meets the Mayo Clinic, and as you can see by the pictures, they achieved that goal. The centers are whimsically sophisticated. Think of a luxury spa – but for kids.
PCON: Why Washington? Are there plans for further expansion?
Gerber: We have already started our expansion plans. We’ll expand across the U.S. first, then outside the country. D.C. is a densely populated and highly educated community, and we thought that would be a good place to start. It turns out we were right, and that’s allowing us to expand to other markets.
PCON: How does a practice affiliate with Treehouse Eyes?
Gerber: There are a spectrum of ways to affiliate with us, all with the intent of ensuring myopic kids get the best possible myopia care. One way is to take fractional ownership in a standalone center. Another is for a doctor to escort his or her patient to our center and use our unique facility and technology. Another is our “Treehouse in Office” (THIO) expansion model where we work with the doctors to build a center in their own practices, sort of like having a Starbucks kiosk at the airport. It’s smaller than a stand-alone Starbucks, but everyone recognizes it as the same. THIO affiliates get to use the Treehouse Vision System protocol, and we license our marketing and process know-how.
Finally, doctors who recognize their myopic kids need help but don’t have the time or space to do this the right way – and it does take a lot of time to do it properly – can comanage their cases with us or THIO doctors. Whatever is best for the kid is what we want to do. To that point, we frequently offer continuing education to area docs to ensure the clinical bar is set at the high level these kids deserve. – Interviewed by Abigail Sutton
Disclosure: Gerber is the co-founder of Treehouse Eyes.