Also known as personal emergency response systems, medical alert systems can help seniors and people living with disabilities remain independent in their homes by ensuring help is readily available. Wearable panic buttons are activated when the wearer presses the wrist- or pendant-mounted help button, and some devices also include automatic fall detection — a hands-free feature that triggers a call for help when the user suffers a sudden fall.
Medical alert systems have grown in popularity, and there are now dozens of medical alert system providers to choose from. This guide offers helpful tips on how to pick the best medical alert company for yourself or your loved ones.
Start By Deciding What Type of Medical Alert System You Need
Medical alert systems come in two basic types — at-home and mobile. At-home systems use either a landline or cellular phone connection, and provide users with up to 1300 feet of range between the in-home base station and the wearable panic button. These maintenance-free systems are ideal for those who only require medical alert coverage while in their home.
Mobile medical alert systems, also known as on-the-go personal emergency response systems, work on nationwide cellular networks. These systems include either an all-in-one pendant-style help button with a speakerphone and GPS transponder, a medical alert smartwatch, or a help button paired with a small mobile cellular base unit. Mobile help buttons offer in-home and on-the-go coverage anywhere mobile phone service is available. Unlike most in-home help buttons, mobile medical alert system users need to charge the built-in battery on a regular basis.
Some medical alert providers only offer in-home or mobile medical alert systems, while others have both types available. Deciding the type of medical alert system you need is the first step in choosing a medical alert company.
Consider Costs, Payment and Cancellation Policies
Monitored medical alert systems range in price from under $20 a month for basic in-home systems to over $80 per month for full-featured on-the-go devices.
Most, but not all, medical alert providers include the use of the medical alert hardware in their monthly fees. A few companies require that customers purchase the devices, which adds to the up-front cost of enrolling in a medical alert monitoring service.
Consider the costs, billing options and contract terms of each medical alert provider. Some companies bill on a month-to-month basis, while it’s also common to find quarterly, semiannual and annual monitoring plans. Be sure to check out cancellation policies, as these vary between providers.
Compare Optional Features and Services
When it comes to medical alert system features and services, there are often significant differences between providers.
Entry-level systems usually include an in-home base unit paired with either a wrist-mounted or pendant-style panic button that works anywhere from 500 to 1300 feet from the base unit. Some companies offer enhanced in-home systems with features, such as extra wall-mounted and wearable help buttons, PIN-protected lockboxes, automatic fall detection and activity monitoring.
Other common features include GPS location tracking on mobile help buttons, medication reminders and caregiver apps that give authorized users access to real-time information about their loved one’s medical alert system.
Consider which services and features you need, and look for medical alert providers that offer systems that include those services.
Read User Reviews
Reviews from medical alert users can provide valuable insight into which medical alert provider offers the best combination of value, service and reliability.
Take the time to read through online reviews from a variety of sources to find out what users are saying about various medical alert companies. Be sure to check third-party sites, as the reviews posted on the providers’ websites are often edited to include only positive reviews.
If possible, ask friends and medical professionals about which medical alert provider they have experience with and which company they’d recommend. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the company is a member, and read through any customer complaints filed with the BBB.
Research Monitoring Services and Call Answer Times
Reliability is key when it comes to medical alert systems, and that includes the call monitoring service.
Research the average call response time of the various medical alert providers. This information is readily available from all reputable medical alert companies, and many companies operate multiple call centers to ensure no call goes unanswered.
Other things to consider are whether the provider offers multilingual call response service and if it owns its call center or contracts the service out to another facility. Some providers only hire emergency operators who are certified EMTs, and that can help improve the quality of the call response service.
While choosing the right medical alert provider takes some time, a little research can go a long way toward finding the best personal emergency response system for you or your loved ones.