E. Preston Gee can't be simply categorized. A former toy developer turned healthcare marketer, he's an author whose book on product-line development guided thousands of hospital executives down that strategic path in the 1980s.
He also has experience in opening rural health clinics and establishing a physician management company. He's currently developing a physician-hospital organization in his position as senior vice president for marketing and business development at St. David's Health Care System in Austin, Texas.
Last month, Mr. Gee's newest book, Thriving on Reform, became available in retail bookstores. The book offers insights into how healthcare executives can take advantage of the industry's changes.
A father of six who is active in his Mormon church, the 39-year-old Mr. Gee is described as a man of "boundless energy."
"I think he invented the 25th hour," said his former boss, Richard Royer, executive director at AMI Columbia (Mo.) Regional Hospital.
When asked how he found time to write the 197-page Thriving on Reform amid his other responsibilities, Mr. Gee answered, "Late nights and long weekends."
A native of Pocatello, Idaho, Mr. Gee received his bachelor's degree in business from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, in 1978 and his master's in business administration from BYU two years later.
He was recruited by Fisher-Price Toys, East Aurora, N.Y., as project manager for new product development. Construx, a Lego-type toy of interconnecting pieces, was one of his product team's successes. In his four years at the company, he moved up to marketing manager for educational software.
In retrospect, the experience at Fisher-Price was "very valuable," Mr. Gee said. "It cemented the value of (not making) major moves without good market research."
He also learned the importance of value to consumers. For example, a product sometimes is overpriced relative to its perceived value. "That's very applicable to healthcare," Mr. Gee said, adding that often "people do not perceive the value for healthcare."
Mr. Gee left in 1984 to apply his skills to the healthcare industry. He was hired as director of marketing and strategic planning at Sacred Heart General Hospital, Eugene, Ore. There, he implemented the product-line management concept, a type of industrial approach to restructuring a hospital, its costs and its personnel around various product lines, such as cardiology or cancer.
The idea was so successful and innovative that he suggested a book on the topic to the American Hospital Association. He co-authored Product Management for Hospitals: Organizing for Profitability, which the AHA published in 1987; about 5,500 copies were sold.
In 1987, he became an equity partner in Med-Index, a Salt Lake City-based consulting firm. He sold his interest two years later.
He joined AMI Columbia in 1989 as vice president of marketing and business development. In addition to launching the hospital's first major marketing and advertising campaign, he managed many of the facility's vertical integration activities. For example, he developed a subsidiary that owned or managed nine physician practices. In addition, he spearheaded a deal to lease Keller Memorial Hospital, Fayette, Mo., an effort that was just being completed when he was recruited by St. David's in Austin.
There he's working on a new PHO for the hospital and its 40 primary-care physicians.
While attending a conference last year on developing PHOs, Mr. Gee got the idea for Thriving on Reform. In it, he gives healthcare executives a new perspective, and adds that "these days, perspective is almost as valuable as perception-yet...neither one is as important as pricing."