A smart watch looks much like a regular wristwatch, but it’s actually a tiny wearable computer. The first smart watches were an extension of a user’s cell phone. With a larger face than a regular watch, these early smart watches could display not only the time, but they also showed the wearer messages, emails and incoming phone calls from their cell phone.
Smart watches today include numerous mobile phone apps that supply useful health information to keep track of exercise, the user’s heart rate, oxygen saturation, body temperature and now, fall detection for seniors or people with mobility challenges. Read this informative guide to learn about the Apple Watch and how it provides fall detection with medical alert services.
Apple Watch Medical Alert Functionality
An Apple Watch is a smart watch developed and released by Apple in 2015. The Apple Watch Series 3 had a side button that let the wearer call 911, while fall detection became available beginning with the Series 4. With this feature, if the wearer experiences a hard fall, the watch sends out a signal that feels like a tap on the wrist. It also sounds an alarm and displays a message on the screen. The options are to contact emergency services or dismiss the alert by tapping the “I’m OK” shown on the screen.
If the wearer falls and is moving, the Apple Watch waits for a response instead of immediately calling emergency services. If the person remains immobile for more than a minute, the watch begins the tapping vibration again, and an audible alert will sound for 30 seconds. The alert continues and gets louder, so the wearer and anyone nearby can hear it. After 30 seconds, the Apple Watch automatically calls for help.
The medical information needed by the Apple Watch is set up on the user’s iPhone and syncs up with the Apple Watch for updates or changes. Through the iPhone setup, a user can set preferences, such as turning fall detection on or off, enabling emergency calls and an SOS that allows use of the side button to call 911. These are built-in emergency alert services provided by Apple.
Using the Apple Watch With Medical Alert Apps
When an Apple Watch user presses the side button for emergency services or the watch initiates an emergency call, the typical recipient is a 911 operator. Due to service area connectivity and individual cell phone signal carriers, the 911 operator may not have access to the person’s medical ID or data.
A conventional medical alert watch is a device supplied by a medical alert services company. These watches don’t have the extra options and features of an Apple Watch. However, the Apple Watch alone doesn’t include connecting the user to a first responder, such as a trained call center associate provided by an actual medical alert company.
FallCall™ Lite Medical Alert App
There is one free app available at the time of this writing, FallCall™ Lite, which works with an Apple Watch and offers seniors medical alert capabilities.
Seniors with an Apple Watch and their caregiver or family member both need to download and install FallCall™ Lite on their iPhone. This app works with iPhones running IOS 10+ and an Apple Watch running OS 4+. Once the iPhone pairs with the Apple Watch, options and functions for FallCall™ Lite appear on the watch’s screen. This app has free and paid versions.
The free version of FallCall™ Lite doesn’t connect with a call center or 911 in the event of an emergency. It does include the following services:
- Emergency notifications sent to up to five caregivers or family members
- Provides the GPS location of the wearer accessible through the app
- Allows caregivers and family members to receive their loved one’s heart rate
- Provides a low battery warning for the Apple Watch
- Works with SIRI for voice controls to operate the app
FallCall™’s paid subscription plan costs $14.99 per month and includes the following medical alert services:
- Emergency notifications sent to caregivers or family members
- Provides the GPS location of the user
- Allows caregivers and family members to monitor their loved one’s heart rate
- Provides a low battery warning for the Apple Watch
- Works with SIRI
- All events are recorded and reports sent to caregivers and family members
- Emergency calls are routed to trained emergency medical dispatchers
- The connected care group is sent a final report
- Care group members receive backup emergency calls
An Apple Watch with fall detection costs anywhere from $349 to $749 depending on the series number, watch functions and style.
Additional Health Features Provided by Apple Watch
Apple Watch offers additional functions versus a medical alert watch and includes several built-in features.
- Siri voice control
- Heart rate app
- Irregular heart rhythm notifications
- Works as a phone to make and receive phone calls
- Checks body temperature
- Blood Pressure app
- Fitness tracker
- Water resistant
Customer Reviews and Feedback
What Customers Like
One Apple Watch user was very impressed with the medical alert functions. “Also, due to a neurological condition, I have a tendency to fall and this watch can detect when you fall and ask if you need help and will call for you, it also has an emergency SOS if needed.” Users like the numerous health apps and trackers that go along with the emergency SOS capability.
Apple Watch users with mobility options appreciate knowing the watch deploys help if it detects a fall, and the user doesn’t respond. One stated, “I got my watch on a Wednesday and the Saturday after I fell really hard on my back deck. The watch detected the fall and asked me if I needed emergency services. If I hadn’t tapped my phone within a minute they would have contacted the paramedics with my gps location. My grandchildren were at home with me and called 911. If they hadn’t been there I would have still gotten help.”
What Customers Don’t Like
Some customers feel the battery for the Apple Watch should last longer, and the higher cost for an Apple Watch vs. other medical alert watches is a deterrent for others. The fact there’s only one app for medical alert services available at this time limits some people, and depending on the user’s cell phone provider, the options may not work on the Apple Phone.
Who Should Consider an Apple Watch
For many, the Apple Watch is an elite alternative to a medical alert wristwatch. The Apple Watch looks and feels sleek and offers numerous options that continue to evolve with each new operating system update.
Younger owners with medical problems are likely to embrace the technology and appreciate the medical alert functions. For an elderly family member or friend who’s resistant to new technology, an Apple Watch may pose challenges causing them not to wear the device. Then again, many elderly adults find the watch easy to use after the initial setup, and they do enjoy all the additional health-related functions and widely varied apps.