Medical alert systems are increasingly popular throughout the United States. These sophisticated devices are installed in patient's homes or worn on their person. They automatically notify emergency medical personnel if a fall or other emergency is detected.
Individuals with chronic medical conditions such as epilepsy, cancer, diabetes, or heart disease often choose to use these alert services. They can also be especially helpful for patients who are recovering at home after surgery and patients who are at risk of falling due to mobility issues. The devices may allow patients to live independently in their own homes for longer than would otherwise be possible, and they can provide reassurance for a patient's family and caregivers. In addition to notifying emergency personnel, many devices will contact designated family members at the same time to inform them of any emergency situation.
What Is a Medical Alert Device?
Also known as medical alarms, personal emergency response systems, and fall monitors, medical alert devices are automatic monitors that help protect patients at home and while they are out of the house. The devices include GPS monitoring that provides the patient's location. Many devices include a landline wall unit installed in the home and a button that can be worn as a necklace or bracelet or placed on a keychain. Help can be obtained by pushing the button on the wall unit. If patients are not able to reach the wall unit, they can also obtain help by pushing the button on their necklace, bracelet, or keychain. These wearable buttons contain accelerometers that can automatically detect a fall and activate in case the patient is incapacitated. Depending on the type of device and the company, activating the button may connect the patient to a central command center with trained personnel who assess the problem and send the appropriate help. Other devices may simply inform emergency services immediately, and some may contact caregivers by phone.
Types of Medical Alert Devices
The two main types of medical alert devices are monitored and unmonitored. The activation buttons of monitored devices, including those worn by the patient, connect to a control center and allow the patient to talk to a person through the two-way intercom on the device. Some systems may require the patient to be in the home near the wall unit for the two-way communication to work. When non-monitored devices are triggered, automatic calls are made to individuals who were designated by the patient at the time the service was set up. These calls may play a recorded message informing the designated individual of the situation, and some more sophisticated devices allow the designated individual to obtain more information by talking to an operator at a command center. Some of the newest medical alert systems use mobile cellular networks in place of a wall unit. In addition to monitoring for falls and other emergencies, some medical alert systems can track patient's blood pressure and other vital signs and provide reminders to take medication. Others offer daily wellbeing check-ins with a phone call or through electronic means.
Popular Medical Alert Providers
The following are some of the most widely used and highly recommended medical alert providers in the United States:
- Medical Guardian - Medical Guardian has an average response time of 39 seconds after the emergency button is activated, one of the fastest response times of any medical alert device. An initial contract is required, and prices start at $29.95 per month. Customer service is available both over the phone and through live chat. The company uses a combination of base units with intercoms in the home and has several different wearable necklace and bracelet buttons for the patient.
- Mobile Help - Mobile Help includes a smartwatch for patients in addition to the standard wall units and button wearables. The smartwatch has a touchscreen and can track steps. It also comes with GPS location and functions as a direct line to the mobile help call center in the event of an emergency.
- Bay Alarm Medical - Bay Alarm Medical has an average response time of 60 seconds after activation of the emergency button. Live chat, email, and a support line are all available for customer service, and they offer a free month-long trial period. Monitoring uses both wall units and bracelet or necklace wearables.
- LifeStation - LifeStation offers voice-guided setup to talk users through the process without the need for a manual. Service plans start at $25.95 per month, and customer service is available through phone, email, and live chat. If power to the wall unit is cut, this can be detected by the service team who will reach out to customers by email and phone.
- ADT Health - ADT Health is a medical alert system from the makers of ADT home security services. Clients are guided through the setup process over the phone by a customer service representative. Plans start at $29.95 per month, and the average response time after activation of the emergency button is 39 seconds.