"We are thrilled to welcome Jeff as the new independent chairman of the athenahealth Board," Dev Ittycheria, chair of the board's nominating and corporate governance committee said in a statement.
The health-care technology company, which provides network-enabled services for hospital and ambulatory clients, cited Immelt's "digital expertise" among the reasons for the appointment. In a statement, Athenahealth credited him with "driving the first wave of digitization across healthcare enterprises and the healthcare industry at large."
"Having considered a number of highly qualified candidates, the Board determined that Jeff's deep expertise and broad relationships in the healthcare industry, combined with his drive for industry transformation through innovation, ideally position him to be a great partner to the Board and management team as we work to profitably grow and scale the Company and drive value creation," Ittycheria added.
After 16 years as GE chairman and CEO, Immelt stepped down in October 2017.
Immelt led the company through the Sept. 11 attacks, the financial crisis and oil price swings. Under his leadership, GE sold or spun off major businesses, including appliances, insurance and plastics, as well as NBCUniversal, among others. Under Immelt, GE went from a far-flung conglomerate to an industrial company focused on the faster-growing industrial and power sectors.
But Immelt has come under fire by critics for poor leadership decisions that left GE cash strapped. He has been criticized for poorly timed investments and decisions about mergers and acquisitions. He's also been critiqued for excessive spending habits, including bringing an extra corporate jet on business trips — just in case of emergencies.
Immelt plans to purchase $1 million of Athenahealth common stock in the open market. Shares of Athenahealth gained 3.7 percent after the announcement.