A Candid Interview with Olive CEO Sean Lane

Sean Lane, the motivated CEO of Olive, the automation company creating the Internet of Healthcare, sat down with me for a candid conversation about the company’s exponential growth, its status today, and his exciting vision for the future of healthcare.


Olive is growing fast. How many employees do you have now? 

Olive has grown significantly during the pandemic. We have around 1,400 employees across the country now. That’s up from around 200 in March of 2020.


Other than growth, how did the Pandemic affect Olive? 

Most acutely, it increased the demand for Olive massively. We grew more in customer sales in 2021 than we have ever grown. Much like the hospitals and insurance companies we serve, the demand surge has pushed the limits of our capacity. We have been able to hire quickly to meet the challenge, but we are still working through our pandemic backlog. Fortunately we have a marketplace (library.oliveai.com) of 60+ partners helping us automate the whole enterprise. To say the least, we have a lot of work ahead of us this year!


How many customers do you have? 

We have well over 200 enterprise customers. Our customers are health systems (including over 1,000 hospitals), insurance companies, and a growing number of healthcare companies. The value we are creating with our customers is real. For example, MemorialCare’s California call center patients were waiting too long to get the help they needed, which created a host of problems. So, MemorialCare hired Olive to transform their scheduling operation from the ground up, resulting in $2M of revenue growth, along with a reduction in average call times by 20%. 

Another customer who is seeing real results is Essentia Health. After implementing our End-to-End Prior Authorization Solution, authorization denial rates for imaging were reduced by 50%. Patient throughput also improved. We help to determine if a prior authorization was needed eight days faster than was previously possible. Essentia Health has seen a 75% increase in the rate of approved peer-to-peer reviews. That implementation took just over four months.


Do customers realize the value they thought they would get from automation?

We’re committed to making sure every customer realizes the value they expect, or even more. The way our model works, we keep deploying automation across the enterprise until we hit the value they expect to achieve. Some have seen more value than they originally expected, but most of our customers are still on the journey of implementation in some form or fashion. Most customers increase the expected value target after they achieve their early targets. 


How has your customer retention been? 

We’ve been super fortunate to have incredible customer retention. We don’t publish our actual numbers but they are higher than market norms and higher than we could have imagined. Most customers expand with us within two years. 


What does a typical customer look like? 

Olive’s customer relationships are intended to be long-term. We work closely with our customers to develop a multi-year, enterprise-wide automation master plan.


How do you calculate the value you have created for your customers?

That’s actually one of the hardest things about this. When we were just automating the financial areas like the revenue cycle a few years ago, it was easier. Now we have automations across the whole enterprise and from dozens of partners. The good news is we have a massive product and engineering team who are constantly working on ways to measure impact at scale. We currently use an in-house system we’ve developed called Apertures to be hyper-transparent with our customers about their automations and the value we’ve generated. However, ironically it’s still somewhat manual and we’re working hard to build more technology in that area.


Do you use real AI and ML or just screen scraping? 

Great question! First, screen scraping is often inaccurately conflated with RPA. Although some people think of Olive as an RPA company, the truth is we use RPA only sometimes and only when we can’t get access in other ways. We rarely ever use old school screen scraping. The RPA technology we built uses computer vision (convolutional neural nets) and many of our solutions use machine learning, natural language processing, or in some cases deep learning. It really depends on the automation. Also, it’s important to remember that Olive is a platform. We have end solutions we call “Olive originals”, but we are equally as focused on enabling a community of partners and developers. Many of our partners use machine learning and other AI technologies in their products. 


How do you think about company culture? 

Building a massive company from scratch is hard. Fortunately we have an incredible team intensely focused on our mission. We strongly believe automation will change the health experience for humankind. No matter what happens in the stock market or with competition or with any other factor, like the pandemic, this mission is still there and still critically important. Our people work tirelessly to make healthcare better through automation. We shape culture every minute of every day. It’s about the decisions we make and how we behave. It goes beyond the perks. It’s not about a theme park office or great swag. It’s about doing something you believe will matter in people’s lives. Most importantly it’s about how you treat other humans.


Health tech companies have been hit hard in the public markets, how has that impacted Olive? 

Markets will go up and markets will go down. Olive is a private company right now so we aren’t distracted by the stock market. We are focused on our customers and continuing to grow our team to meet the extraordinary demand. We are fortunate to be backed by some of the most recognized and respected global investors and we are delivering on our vision by continuing to innovate products on behalf of our customers despite any turmoil in the public markets. 


What’s next for Olive? 

We recently unveiled the next phase of our platform which includes expanded connectivity and integration capabilities. Continued investment in our platform will connect all the siloed backend systems, helping developers gain access to critical information. We are committed to our mission, and strongly believe taking a true platform approach offers the fastest way to deliver a new healthcare experience for humankind.