The letter meant his office, where he worked full time and which was paid for by Lifestyle Lift, had to quickly shut its doors. Days earlier, Lifestyle Lift’s founder, Dr. David Kent, had notified the company’s nearly 400 employees that they were out of a job and that the company would cease operations. Lifestyle Lift pioneered the mass marketing of face-lifts through its nationwide chain of around 50 surgery centers. But as The Wall Street Journal examined this week, the 14-year-old company faltered under the weight of rapid growth and an expensive advertising campaign.
To ensure the ongoing care of his patients, Dr. Santos is now working out of the office of a local surgeon, where he can follow through on already-scheduled Lifestyle Lift surgeries. “They’ll be out in the cold if I don’t,” Dr. Santos, a former medical director at the chain, said recently. “I’m trying to take care of them. I’m trying to get back on my feet.”
Dr. Santos and dozens of Lifestyle Lift’s former doctors are banding together to help make sure patients know where to go for follow-up care or with questions about planned operations. Lifestyle Lift’s signature face-lift typically cost between $6,500 and $9,000, payable upfront or through zero-interest, 18-month payment plans. Unlike most face-lifts, its procedures were done using only local anesthesia.
An attorney for Dr. Kent said Thursday that “we are working on plans at the local as well as national level” to accommodate patients, including those in line for refunds.
Separately, “the doctors have gone to great lengths to protect their patients here, to make sure they can reach us, and to safeguard the charts,” Lifestyle Lift’s former chief medical officer, Dr. Jason Swerdloff of Tampa, Fla., said. (Patients can find doctors’ contact information at this website.)
Dr. Swerdloff, like Dr. Santos, said he plans to honor payments already made by patients, which were paid to the company and not to the individual doctors. A little more than half of Lifestyle Lift’s 77 doctors worked part time as independent contractors, with the rest working full-time at the chain.
Lifestyle Lift had grown to command a major share of the face-lift market. At its peak in 2013, it brought in $186 million in revenue and performed 18% of all face-lifts done by board-certified physicians in the U.S., according to data prepared last fall by a former outside financial adviser to the chain.
Lifestyle Lift’s TV ads, some featuring its onetime spokeswoman Debby Boone, managed “to engender interest in individuals, mostly women, who otherwise were not the typical candidates for a face-lift,” said Dr. Dennis Hurwitz, a plastic surgeon who co-branded his Pittsburgh private practice with the Lifestyle Lift name. “It was the egalitarian face-lift.”