GOES.health: The future of wilderness medicine

When it comes to outdoor activities and adventures, there is always the potential for medical emergencies to arise. Whether it’s a minor injury or a life-threatening situation, having access to medical expertise and advice is crucial. That’s where GOES.health comes in. Founded by Dr. Grant Lipman, GOES.health is an innovative digital health platform that provides evidence-based expert recommendations to make outdoor activities and adventures safer.

In 2019, Dr Lipman, received a call from a distressed hiker that had been bitten by a large rattlesnake. While the patient was admitted to his local hospital and discharged with an anti-venom medication, his symptoms did not get any better. Like many of us, he turned to the internet to research snake-bite care. Dr Lipman discovered that the unusual and rare venom bite was destroying the hiker’s healthy tissue and blood cells. He was able to save the hiker’s leg using his specialized medical expertise. 

This story, among decades of calls, texts, and emails requesting wilderness medical help from all over the world, prompted Dr. Lipman to ask the question: 

“How do we make wilderness medicine more accessible?”

The call to action brought together a team of wilderness medicine doctors, engineers, designers, and healthcare technologists to revolutionize wilderness medicine technology.

Dr. Lipman’s love for wild places and his experience in wilderness medicine led him to create GOES.health. After completing a fellowship in wilderness medicine at Stanford, he went on to become a Professor of Emergency Medicine and direct the wilderness medicine fellowship at Stanford for ten years. Dr. Lipman’s experiences in the field and his desire to help people in resource-limited areas led to the creation of GOES.health.

One of Dr. Lipman’s most memorable experiences in the field occurred while he was in Nepal. He was struck by the sense of community and the way in which people looked out for each other. 

“Traveling as a doctor in Nepal, I loved how the villagers would bang on my door if someone was sick, I’d hear, ‘doctor, doctor, your friend is sick.’ I’d look around me and my friends and I knew that we were all feeling fine,” said Lipman. “But to the locals all the foreigners were most likely “friends,” because we were not from this village.”

“I love that concept, that in the wild places of the high mountains we are all friends looking out for each other,” added Lipman.

This experience inspired Lipman to create a service that could deliver emergency medical knowledge to people in remote locations. Another experience that led to the creation of GOES.health occurred during a 150-mile, seven-day ultramarathon race in Patagonia.

“I remember walking through the tents one evening and heard all these people in a babel of accents querying each other, ‘are you going to pre-tape tomorrow?’,” said Lipman.  

Dr. Lipman had published a paper on the use of paper tape to decrease blisters in runners, and he was delighted to see that his research had made its way to the runners in Patagonia. This experience led him to think about the best way to get evidence-based medical knowledge to people who could benefit the most.

What initially started as an emergency hotline has evolved into an innovative digital health platform that delivers evidence-based expert recommendations organized by environment. GOES.health provides individualized medical direction that is accessible on or off the grid, so an outdoor situation doesn’t turn into a medical emergency. According to Dr. Lipman, “GOES.health is a way for people to access specialized medical advice no matter where they are, whether it’s in the backcountry or on a remote beach.”

Medical emergency examples

GOES.health addresses a wide range of injuries and medical emergencies that outdoor enthusiasts may encounter.

Here are a few examples:

Heat-Related Illness: Heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, can be serious and even life-threatening. According to Dr. Lipman, “Heat-related illnesses are among the most common injuries that we see in outdoor enthusiasts.” GOES.health provides advice on how to prevent heat-related illnesses, as well as how to recognize and treat them if they do occur. This information is especially important for people who are participating in outdoor activities in hot and humid environments.

Snakebites: Snakebites can be a serious medical emergency, and they are more common than many people realize. Dr. Lipman’s research accurately predicted an increase in snakebites due to weather changes in California. GOES.health provides advice on how to prevent snakebites, as well as how to recognize and treat them if they do occur. This information can be lifesaving for people who are participating in outdoor activities in areas where snakes are common.

Altitude Sickness: Altitude sickness can occur when people travel to high altitudes too quickly. Symptoms can include headache, nausea, and dizziness, and in severe cases, altitude sickness can be life-threatening. Dr. Lipman says, “Altitude sickness is a common problem for people who are traveling to high altitude destinations for the first time.” GOES.health provides advice on how to prevent altitude sickness, as well as how to recognize and treat it if it does occur. This information is especially important for people who are planning trips to high altitude destinations such as mountains.

Real-life scenario

“Let’s imagine that an individual is getting ready to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Prior to embarking, they could use the GOES.health app to read up on environmental health risks related to the different environments and terrains along the trail (e.g: desert → heat illness, sierra nevadas → altitude sickness, tick bites/snakebites/poison ivy, etc),” said Lipman. 

In May Lipman plans on releasing a new version of the product which will integrate additional data sources. 

“Leveraging this data and our clinical expertise, GOES will generate user-specific insight to inform individuals of any real-time dangers which might impact their adventure. In this way, users will be able to more effectively prepare on-the-go,” added Lipman. 

There are many areas of the PCT where there is limited access to cell signals, he explained. “What if something were to happen? That’s where Assess & Decide comes in! You can use A&D to gain expert insight for any accident, illness, or injury completely OFFLINE. And if you do have service, just call a GOES doctor – it’s as simple as that. We’re your one stop shop for anything wilderness medicine,” said Lipman. 

Lipman added that GOES.health is here to help you plan and prevent outdoor health emergencies and is there for you if something feels like it is going wrong so you can focus on your trip, your adventure, and your outdoor story. Just because you are covering an outdoor event as media support does not mean you are immune to the same environmental risks as the participants. We want to keep you safe so you can optimize YOUR story.

Media coverage

If you’re interested in writing articles/blogs about GOES please reach out to Adam Roeske, Director of Partnerships, Co-Founder at adam@goes.health. 

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