UCC spin-out develops software with potential to cut hospital waiting lists

Stimul.ai co-founders Prof Barry O’Sullivan and Naomh McElhatton seeks seed-funding

Stimul.ai co-founders: chief executive Naomh McMcElhatton and chief artificial intelligence officer Prof Barry O’Sullivan.

Stimul.ai, a new spin-out company from University College Cork (UCC), has developed technology that has the potential to radically support hospitals reduce hospital waiting list times.

The software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based solution is a clinical design tool intended to help hospitals make better capacity planning designs by automating laborious processes and better utilise resources using machine learning.

The solution, which is GDPR compliant, guides hospitals on how to best allocate times that match patient capacity requirements. Essentially the aim is to take the pain associated with ever growing waiting lists away from clinicians and their support teams.

Trials undertaken by the start-up with a number of hospitals to date has led to waiting list times declining by as much as 80 per cent.


The technology has been developed following 10 years of academic research by Prof Barry O'Sullivan and his team of data scientists and mathematicians at the Insight SFI Centre for Data Analytics at UCC.

Prof O’Sullivan, who is a founding director and principal investigator at the centre, has co-founded Stimuli.ai with Naomh McElhatton, a well-known Belfast-based entrepreneur who is the start-up’s chief executive.

Prof O’Sullivan has been involved in winning over €300 million in research funding during his career. He said prior to the founding of Stimul.ai, no technology solution has existed to tackle the issue of waiting lists, which costs countries billions of euros per year.


The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) warned earlier this year that almost a million people could be on waiting lists for hospital care in the Republic by the end of the year unless the Health Service Executive (HSE) addresses the issue. Meanwhile in Britain, the number of people waiting for hospital treatment could reach 13 million in the months to come due to the Covid backlog, according to health secretary Sajid Javid.

“The mismatch between capacity and demand is one of the main reasons why waiting backlogs develop and why waiting lists and times increase,” Prof O’Sullivan told The Irish Times.

“Solutions that do focus on waiting lists are basically scheduling tools but that isn’t what we’re offering. We are looking at helping health services understand their environment better without interrupting daily working practices by looking at things from a strategic perspective,” he said.

Ms McElhatton said the start-up is currently looking at developing new trials to validate the technology from a commercial perspective, rather than just an academic one. It is also talking to potential investors about securing €850,000 in seed funding.

"Realistically, what we need to do is to partner with another health tech company who have buying power in the likes of the National Health Service (NHS) or HSE to allow us to get to market quicker," she said.

“The solution we have isn’t just about helping health services save money but is to ensure they deliver better patient care so we want to make sure it is widely available as quickly as possible,” she added.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist