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Former GE CEO Says the Company Tried to Buy Epic and Cerner


CEO Judy Faulkner rebuffed him almost instantly when he suggested that the two companies could work together.

(Photo Credit: VitVit, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

At the Digital Healthcare Innovation Summit in Boston yesterday, former General Electric (GE) CEO Jeffery Immelt revealed that he once tried to bring 1 or both of the world’s 2 biggest electronic health records (EHR) companies into the conglomerate’s portfolio. It didn’t work out so well.

As head of GE Healthcare in the 1990’s, Xconomy reports, he held the shortest meeting of his executive career. Epic Systems founder and CEO Judy Faulkner rebuffed him almost instantly when he suggested that the two companies could work together, or that GE could acquire part of the business. “It was a five-minute meeting,” he reportedly said.

Faulkner remains CEO of Epic, a company she founded in 1979. With a net worth of $3.4 billion, she is one of the wealthiest tech entrepreneurs in the world. Immelt recently stepped down from GE after 35 years with the company, the last 16 of which he served as CEO.

Immelt also admitted that he considered a purchase of Cerner, Epic’s largest rival, but the cost was too rich for his blood. He did not divulge when the opportunity arose, saying only that the price at the time was $2 billion, which he balked at. Cerner is now worth more than 11 times that amount, valued at over $23 billion.

The former CEO was critical of the progress that healthcare has made in gaining value from EHR implementation. Hospital CEOs, he said, "don’t know what they have, don’t know how to use it, and they aren’t getting a return.” Despite a drastic increase in overall adoption, a number of surveys show that physicians also feel widespread frustration with their EHR systems. Many physicians also say that the systems significantly increase their workload.

Combined, Epic and Cerner control about half of the EHR market, each with about a 25% share. Their next-closest competitor is MEDITECH, which holds 16.6%.

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