Kesinger presenting AlphaStroke at the TechShop Hardware Cup. Image courtesy of TechShop.

With a stroke patient, every second counts. When a stroke victim is misdiagnosed, the delay before treatment averages 110 minutes.

“We know that every five minutes that treatment is delayed, there is a significantly worse outcome,” says Matt Kesinger, founder of Forest Devices. “Stroke is so terribly expensive, and the medical costs are going to increase by over 200% in 2030.”

Now AlphaStroke, Forest Devices’ first product, makes it faster and easier for EMTs to diagnose a stroke. The device is a simplified EKG machine but where an EKG scan takes up to an hour–it requires precisely placed nodes on the scalp, and an extensively trained neurologist to interpret the readings–AlphaStroke takes up to a minute.

AlphaStroke simplifies the process and analyzes the readings for signs of a stroke. Nodes are attached to the scalp, but the placement is less specific than an EKG. Instead of a neurologist, AlphaStroke’s algorithm reads the scan and determines if the patient has recently had a stroke. The process takes between 45-60 seconds.

The device works as a first response tool, but it doesn’t replace a CT scan.

It can be difficult for EMTs to identify strokes, explains Kesinger, a former EMT. Based on the average number of patients an EMT will see in a year, about 1 in 400 will have a stroke and it’s not uncommon for an EMT to misidentify patients with a stroke–sending them to an incorrect hospital and thereby delaying treatment.

Kesinger experienced this first hand on the job. He was asked to transport a patient from the nursing home to a hospital when he realized that the woman’s symptoms were incorrectly diagnosed and that she had instead just suffered a stroke.

“This was my first week on the job, so I was still practicing the full physical exam,” says Kesinger. When he realized she had been misdiagnosed, he rushed the woman to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Founder of Forest Devices, Matt Kesinger. Image courtesy of Forest Devices.
Founder of Forest Devices, Matt Kesinger. Image courtesy of Matt Kesinger.

EMTs are pressed for time and searching for a diagnosis; exams can take too much time, especially when symptoms aren’t visible. Kesinger is determined to change that through AlphaStroke. 

Kesinger put his medical degree at the University of Pittsburgh on hold to pursue AlphaStroke full-time at Thrill Mill. Before medical school and Forest Devices, he taught abroad and led wilderness trips for disadvantaged youth.

It wasn’t until Kesinger took an EMT training course that he found a passion for science and medicine. “It was what I had always been looking for,” Kesinger says.

Since founding Forest Devices in April, Kesinger has created a desktop prototype of AlphaStroke and is gearing up to begin a clinical study in two months.

Learn more about Forest Devices and AlphaStroke here.

Emma Diehl is a writer, blogger, and social media marketer working in tech and startups in Pittsburgh. She loves local craft beer and a well-crafted pun.