Was Lifestyle Lift "Astroturfing" (posing as clients and posting false reviews)?
I was looking around at a number of allegations of medical businesses that have been accused recently of using their employees to post fake comments on physician rating sites and was pointed to this Wikipedia entry about Lifestyle Lift and allegations by the New York State Attorney General's office that Lifestyle Lift had been 'Astroturfing' back in 2009.
Lifestyle Lift has faced numerous complaints about the accuracy of their advertising. The company and its procedures have been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox News, and in newspapers and magazines across America, some of which were critical of their practices. In 2006 Lifestyle Lift voluntarily participated in a review of its advertising materials with the Better Business Bureaus's National Advertising Division. This review produced a 10-page document which made several suggestions for improvement, all of which were adopted by Lifestyle Lift. One was that pictures taken of patients tended to amplify problem spots, and benefits post-surgery, by using different photographic techniques. The BBB summarized by stating that "disclaimers must not contradict the main message conveyed by an advertisement", and "'before' and 'after' photographs should be taken in a uniform manner".
In 2008, the company brought suit in United States federal court against the website RealSelf.com, which solicits anonymous consumer reviews of cosmetic procedures. Lifestyle Lift claimed that RealSelf's practice of allowing competing cosmetic surgeons to advertise as offering a "Lifestyle Lift" was a trademark violation. The courts deemed the website's activities to be protected First Amendment speech, and the lawsuit was later settled.
In July 2009, the New York State Attorney General's office charged Lifestyle Lift with "astroturfing," or posting fake consumer reviews on the Internet, and reached a settlement in which the company paid $300,000 in penalties and costs. According to the AG's office, Lifestyle Lift employees were instructed to create accounts on Internet message boards and pose as satisfied customers, and created web sites such as "MyFaceliftStory.com", designed to disseminate positive reviews appearing as if they were created by independent and satisfied customers. They also attacked genuine customers who posted critical messages about Lifestyle Lift on other sites, and took steps to get those posts removed. The AG's investigation discovered emails specifically instructing employees to engage to post on the web; one such message directed an employee to "devote the day to doing more postings on the Web as a satisfied client"
(Note: I've never been involved with Lifestyle Lifts or Swift Lift in any way but we did perform a different endoscopic suture plication facelift called Point Lift that we developed independently. Point Lift was eventually dropped after we found the results to be lackluster and the incidence of unhappy patients and complications to be higher than acceptable.)
In my experience, these kinds of lawsuits happen from time to time and it's more an inditement of some shoddy business practices than of the medical treatment.
I'm aware that there are a number of physicians who are performing Lifestyle Lifts now and I'm curious to find out what their opinion of the treatment and patient satisfaction in general.
This kind of stuff can quickly get out of control, even on an individual clinic level. The whole 'fake physician review' deal is one of the reasons that we're promoting Frontdesk's verified physician review and customer satisfaction marketing system that actually takes some steps to make sure that your happy clients have a voice that gives a clear representation of what your patients actually think.
Link: Frontdesk's Customer Satisfaction Review Marketing System