A Truly Epic CEO Rocks the Cleveland Medical Innovation Summit

When Judy Faulkner launched Epic Systems from a Wisconsin basement in the late ‘70s, she had no idea the Electronic Healthcare company would become the healthcare powerhouse it has grown into today.

When Judy Faulkner launched Epic Systems from a Wisconsin basement in 1979, the medical software company was worth about $70,000. Speaking at the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit, Faulkner told the audience about the firm's "Epic" journey. 

According to Forbes, Faulkner has come a long way since founding the company. The CEO now has  a net worth of about $3.5 billion and is the third richest self-made woman on Forbes' list. Epic specializes in electronic health records and had sales of $2.7 billion in 2017.

“When we started, we had about one-and a-half people now we have about 10,000,” Faulkner told the audience.

But if you ask Faulkner, she never could have imagined how big her company eventually become. 

“I never had a sense of what size [Epic Systems] would grow to,” Faulkner, told MD+DI in between sessions at the Innovation Summit. “At one point when we were at 50 people I told somebody I thought it would be 300. So, as you can tell, I was never really good at these things.”

A programmer through and through, Faulkner has developed a company that has not only remained private since its inception, but it has also never made an acquisition or relied on venture capital. She told the audience because she was a programmer, her mindset led her to develop Epic differently than other companies in the space.

“I had no idea about business, I didn’t have an MBA,” she said. “I had to think through everything and figure it out. I think if I would have had an MBA, I would have gone with venture capital. But no, I just thought about it and asked why would [I use] venture capital because they’re going to want you to flip [the company] in a few years and make money. If you can’t do that, they’re going to end you – and that doesn’t make sense.”

The firm’s competition includes Cerner, athenahealth, and eClinicalWorks. While these are large companies Epic is able to foster its innovation creativity and creating a climate that fosters productivity. There are no cubicles. Everyone has an office and the company even boasts a corporate treehouse. -

“You shape your buildings, then your buildings shape you,” she said. “Our campuses are built to attract software developers. Every building allows us to have a sense of community.”

Faulkner’s keynote speech was well-received – so much so that she was trending on social media Tuesday. It was one of the highlights of the Innovation Summit for sure.

During a short interview with MD+DI, Faulkner gave some advice to up and coming healthcare entrepreneurs.

“I would say read a lot of books; think for yourself about what’s right; and figure out what you’re in it for,” she told MD+DI. “Are you in it to grow it forever or are you in it to sell it, because you’ll go in two different directions depending on what you want to do with it. But I think the big thing is, think for yourself.”

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