How to Choose a Medical Alert System

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Choosing the right medical alert system is an important decision that can impact your well-being or that of a loved one. In an emergency, the right medical alert company can be the lifeline that makes sure you have timely assistance. This guide is here to help you through the selection process and provide you with a clear roadmap to making a choice that best suits your needs.

We’ll explore the various types of systems available, including in-home and mobile options, and look into important features such as fall detection, GPS tracking, and two-way communication. Understanding these features will help you determine which system offers the best protection based on your lifestyle and health concerns.

We’ll discuss how to balance cost with functionality, providing tips on identifying hidden fees and getting the most value out of your investment. We’ll also consider the importance of user-friendliness, particularly for those who may not be as comfortable with technology, making sure that the system you choose is easy to use and maintain.

We’ll examine the importance of reliability and customer support, helping you to understand what to look for in a provider’s service history and response times. We’ll also guide you through the process of comparing different providers, taking into account their reputation, customer service, and the overall user experience they offer.

By the end of this guide, you will be ready with the insights necessary to select a medical alert system that enhances independence, ensures safety, and aligns with personal preferences and budgetary needs. You’ll know to ask the right questions and make a choice that provides comfort and confidence for users and their families.

Key Takeaways on How To Choose A Medical Alert System

  • Medical alert systems are important for providing 24/7 emergency response. Various devices, such as in-home and mobile units, offer great features like fall detection and GPS tracking for enhanced safety.
  • When selecting a medical alert system, it’s important to consider personal health conditions, living environment, mobility, and budget constraints to find a system that meets your individual needs.
  • Comparing medical alert companies is one major step in the selection process. Look for a provider with a strong reputation, proven reliability, exceptional customer service, and transparent cost structures.
  • Consider any extra services they offer to make sure the provider meets your specific requirements.
  • Cost is a significant factor; hence, understanding the full pricing, including any hidden fees, and comparing this with the features and functions is important to make an informed decision.
  • Technical setup, ease of use, and maintenance are also important factors to consider, especially for those who may not be technologically savvy, such as parents or people with disabilities.
  • Trial periods, guarantees, and insurance coverage impact the overall cost and satisfaction with medical alert devices, so reviewing these aspects is important before committing.
  • Personalizing the medical alert experience through features such as medication reminders, daily wellness checks, caregiver notifications, and custom response protocols can greatly enhance the value and effectiveness of the system.

What Is A Medical Alert System?

A medical alert system is a safety device designed to assist individuals during emergencies by providing a convenient way to call for help. These personal emergency response systems typically consist of a base station connected to a monitoring service and a wearable pendant or wristband with a help button.

In the event of an emergency, the user can press the button to alert the monitoring service, which can then dispatch emergency responders or notify designated contacts.

There are two main types of medical alert systems: in-home systems, which work within the residence and often require a landline, and mobile systems, which use cell phone technology and GPS tracking to provide coverage at home and on the go.

These systems are designed to be user-friendly, with water-resistant pendants that are maintenance-free, and feature long battery life and range of operation.

Choosing a medical alert system is not just about picking the one with the most features. It’s about finding the right blend of features, user-friendliness, and connection options that meet your specific needs.

Types of Systems: In-Home vs. Mobile

An in-home system can connect through traditional landlines or cellular systems, accommodating different home setups. The signal range of these systems should be considered, particularly in larger homes, for maintaining communication between the wearable help buttons and the base station.

In-home medical alert systems usually provide coverage for up to 1,400 feet, which is sufficient for use throughout the home and garden. These systems function through a landline connection and often feature a main unit with a two-way speaker for direct communication with a monitoring center.

The setup is usually quite simple, connecting to a phone line and electrical power. However, these systems are best suited for individuals who spend most of their time at home.

It’s important to note that signal range measurements are often conducted in open-field tests and may vary due to obstructions like walls inside a home.

In-home systems typically do not need charging because they rely on a base station.

On the other hand, mobile medical alert systems are:

  • Portable devices that use cellular technology
  • Used both inside and outside the home
  • Include GPS tracking for active users
  • Battery-operated and require frequent recharging

Mobile medical alert devices provide a safety net for active and mobile users outside their homes, including those who may wander due to conditions like dementia.

For a better comparison, see our mobile vs in-home medical alert systems page.

Features to Look For

As technology advances, so do the features available in medical alert systems.

Fall Detection

One such feature is fall detection. Wearable sensor devices use accelerometers and algorithms to detect falls and contact a monitoring team promptly. Some fall detection devices also incorporate barometric pressure changes to improve accuracy in determining falls.

A survey by Delahoz and Labrador in 2014 on fall detection and prevention systems, published in Sensors, highlights technologies employing wearable and external sensors. It reports on systems’ accuracy, recall, and precision in detecting falls. For example, one fall detection device that uses k-Nearest Neighbor algorithms achieving 89.4% accuracy, another utilizing smartphone sensors reached 95.7% precision and 90% recall, and a neural network-based method showed 96.25% recall and 99.5% specificity. These figures indicate the effectiveness of the discussed fall detection methods.

GPS Tracking

Another notable feature is GPS tracking. This enables the user to be quickly located in medical emergencies, significantly improving response times. When integrated with fall detection, a user’s location is immediately shared with the monitoring center after detecting a fall, helping even when the user can’t communicate. However, it’s important to check the system’s battery life, understand charging procedures, and recognize when the battery is low.

Monitored vs. Unmonitored Options

The choice between monitored medical alert systems and unmonitored medical alert systems is significant.

Monitored systems offer 24/7 surveillance and support, with trained professionals at monitoring centers ready to dispatch family or first responders during an emergency. On the other hand, unmonitored systems allow users to contact 911 or designated personal contacts directly. They come with no monthly fees and the benefit of owning the equipment outright.

Reliability is a major concern for unmonitored systems.

There’s no guaranteed immediate response as personal contacts may not always be available, unlike monitored systems which ensure operator availability 24/7.

The choice between monitored and unmonitored systems depends on your preference for immediate emergency response or direct contact with familiar parties.

Evaluating Your Needs and Lifestyle

When it comes to selecting a medical alert system, one size does not fit all.

You must evaluate your specific needs and abilities. Understanding how conditions like dementia, communication disorders, or fine motor skill impairments impact your use of a medical alert system is important. Also, if you have a pacemaker or other medical devices, you’ll need to choose a system that’s compatible with them.

When choosing the appropriate system, consider your activity level, home size, and budget. Systems with fall detection devices and additional health monitoring features are extremely beneficial for those at an increased risk of falls due to medical history or lifestyle.

Choosing a medical alert system is not about picking the one with the most bells and whistles. It’s about selecting a system that aligns with your needs, lifestyle, and budget. To help you with this, let’s examine risk factors for falls and match the system to mobility.

Assessing Risk Factors for Falls

Fall risk assessment should include a review of the following:

  • Recent falls
  • Side effects of medications
  • Visual impairments
  • Mobility issues
  • Chronic conditions that may impair balance

Fall detection devices are designed to automatically call for help when a user experiences a sudden change in position. This reduces the chance of long-term injury due to delayed assistance, which is especially useful for those unable to call for help themselves.

Individuals with medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or epilepsy, or physical issues like muscle weakness, gait disturbances, or chronic conditions like diabetes or dementia can substantially benefit from fall detection technology.

Assessing how a person walks and their steadiness helps predict their risk of falling. If someone has trouble walking or tends to be unsteady on their feet, they are more likely to experience falls.

Matching System to Mobility

Older adults who are active and go outside alone, including those who may wander away from home, need a mobile medical alert system. For those who need both an in-home and a mobile system but have budget constraints, using mobile devices is advised because of their versatility.

Spouses or partners with different levels of mobility might consider having both an in-home and a mobile medical alert system to cater to their varying needs. If the user is likely to relocate or travel frequently, assessing whether a system offers portability and nationwide service becomes important.

In essence, selecting a medical alert system that aligns with the user’s lifestyle is important, accommodating whether they require 24/7 monitoring or assistance during specific activities or times.

Cost Considerations When Selecting a Medical Alert Device

Cost is an important factor when it comes to selecting a medical alert system. Monthly subscription fees are a constant expense, with most medical alert providers charging for these services.

Some medical alert systems are very affordable. In-home systems with a landline connection are available from $20 per month when the annual plan is paid upfront.

It’s very important to be aware of optional charges that can accumulate, such as additional features during checkout, and be prepared for potential cancellation costs.

On the bright side, you can seek out potential discounts, including veteran or membership discounts and those available for individuals with lower incomes. You may even be able to contact your insurance provider to help with these costs.

Be sure to consider costs such as upfront spending on equipment and activation fees.

Understanding Monthly Fees and Contracts

Medical alert systems typically have monthly fees ranging from $20 to $60, which are influenced by the system type and additional features incorporated.

Home-based medical alert systems are generally less expensive, with monthly costs of around $20 to $40, while mobile systems can cost $20 to $60 more due to mobile services.

Certain providers, such as LifeStation, offer flexible month-to-month payment options, allowing users to cancel their service anytime without being locked into long-term contracts. It’s also important to be aware of the billing cycle and refund policies, as some companies may charge for an entire month even if the service is canceled early in the billing period.

Extra Costs and Value-Added Services

While some companies do not charge equipment or activation fees, others may charge a one-time activation fee.

Add-on features like fall detection and upgrades such as additional pendants or dedicated support may increase the monthly cost by an additional $5 to $20, depending on the chosen features.

Repairs and replacements may cost between $20 and $150, and some providers offer warranties or protection plans to cover these potential expenses.

Be aware of charges for returning leased equipment after cancellation. For example, some companies charge a restocking fee of $50 for returning leased equipment, and other companies may levy fines reaching up to $650 for not returning equipment on time or for returning damaged equipment.

Trial Periods, Guarantees, and Insurance Coverage

Before committing to a medical alert system, you must ask providers about trial periods, guarantees, and insurance coverage.

Some companies like LifeStation offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, allowing customers to get a full refund within the first month and less shipping costs if they are not satisfied with the system. Most medical alert companies do not bind you with long-term contracts, providing the freedom to pay on a monthly basis and cancel with ease.

Testing the Waters with Trial Offers

A 30-day risk-free trial period allows consumers to test and familiarize themselves with a medical alert system, making sure it’s comfortable and suited to their lifestyle. Companies like LifeStation offer a 30-day risk-free trial and a policy of no long-term contracts with easy cancellation, offering flexible service terms for consumers.

Cancellation fees and their absence are important considerations; no cancellation fees offer a safety net for users new to medical alert systems. Customers can also consider the option of prorated refunds to guaranteee they are only charged for the service portion used, avoiding financial strain if the service is canceled.

Insurance and Medicare

While it’s important to consider the cost and features of a medical alert system, it’s equally important to understand how insurance and/or Medicare might impact your overall expenses.

Medicaid may provide coverage for medical alert systems, but this depends on the state, as each state has its regulations and may offer different waivers or assistance programs. Therefore, you must talk with your insurance carrier or your state’s Medicaid office to understand the details of what their policy covers regarding medical alert systems.

Medicare generally does not cover medical alert systems as they are categorized as preventive equipment.

Some private health insurance plans offer partial coverage or discounts for medical alert systems, although this can greatly differ between policies and providers. It’s best to contact your insurance provider or the alert provider for more information on your insurance coverage and how you can get discounts.

Comparing Medical Alert Providers

In a market saturated with medical alert providers, it becomes important to compare them based on reputation, reliability, and customer reviews.

Here are some steps to help you compare different medical alert providers:

  1. Speak with provider consultants to connect with the company and make sure your needs and expectations are understood.
  2. Research through third-party reviews to get unbiased insights about the providers. Be careful when reviewing, however, as many of these are paid to send customers to the medical alert companies.
  3. Consider factors such as pricing, contract terms, equipment options, and customer support when comparing different providers.
  4. Customer reviews and satisfaction ratings are vital indicators of a company’s reputation among consumers.
  5. Consider the history of the medical alert provider in the business. Their efficiency in responding to emergencies can reflect their reliability.

By following these steps, you can decide and choose a medical alert provider that best suits your needs.

Reputation and Reliability

The reputation of a medical alert provider is often reflected in their customer reviews and satisfaction ratings. A quick response time during emergencies is highly valued and contributes to a provider’s reputation.

The likelihood of existing customers recommending the provider strongly measures customer satisfaction.

Apart from these, the provider’s reliability can be determined by:

  • Their history in the business
  • Their efficiency in responding to emergencies
  • Safety certifications such as UL-listed or Five Diamond Certification, which indicate a provider’s commitment to safety and operational excellence
  • Offering various system options, showing adaptability and responsiveness to consumer preferences and needs.

Services and Support

When choosing a medical alert provider, quality customer service is a major factor to consider. This includes:

  • Transparent communication regarding pricing, policies, and features
  • Quick, helpful responses in emergencies and during setup
  • Evaluating a provider’s customer support includes assessing sales interaction, emergency response times, and accessibility of tech support.

Transparent and user-friendly cancellation and return policies, including clear processes and the absence of unauthorized charges, are important parts of customer satisfaction. Several providers also improve the user experience by offering various additional services, such as caregiver notifications and multilingual support to accommodate diverse customers.

Technical Aspects and Setup

Medical alert systems generally require the installation of a base unit for at-home use or a mobile device and charging cradle for mobile use, supplemented by wearable or wall-mounted help buttons.

The installation process involves connecting the base unit to a power outlet and possibly to a phone jack for landline systems. Manufacturers offer guides, customer support, and voice-assisted setup to simplify the process.

At-home medical alert systems can use a landline or cellular connection, while providers often include cellular service options in their plans, catering to users without personal Wi-Fi or smartphones.

You must perform regular testing of the medical alert system to guarantee reliability and build user confidence. This typically includes pressing the help button and confirming system functionality with the operator.

To get more details about testing your system, contact the customer service of your provider.

Learn how to set up your LifeStation Medical Alert System.

Connectivity Requirements

At-home medical alert systems offer the option of using various types of phone connections, including standard landline, digital cable, and bundled services.

Medical alert systems using a cellular connection operate independently of either the user’s personal cellular provider or by using the medical alert company’s cellular service, which requires checking for reliable local coverage in your home and the places you frequent.

It’s worth noting that unmonitored systems that require a mobile device can be difficult for users without a cell phone or those who prefer not to carry one. You must select a personal emergency response system with a connectivity technology that suits your situation.

Battery Life and Maintenance

The battery life of a medical alert system is another big factor.

Some on-the-go medical alert systems offer up to 72 hours or more of power on a single charge. The battery life of mobile medical alerts with fall detection typically lasts between 3 to 5 days, providing users with reliable and long-lasting functionality. This range offers users flexibility and peace of mind knowing that their alert system will remain powered for an extended period.

Wearable help buttons, such as LifeStations Medical Alert Necklace, are designed with long-lasting batteries, which typically provide up to three years of use without needing replacement.

Maintaining the medical alert system may involve the following:

  • Pairing replacement pendants or additional pendants with the base unit as part of component replacement or expansion
  • Charging mobile medical alerts every night to be sure the device is always ready for use
  • Being aware of potential system updates, which could be automatic or require manual intervention.

Safety Features and Innovations

The most significant aspect of medical alert systems is their safety features.

Current in-home and mobile medical alert systems offer safety features like water-resistance and GPS tracking, addressing concerns such as falls in wet areas and wandering. These systems have also evolved in style, offering various wearable forms like discreet necklaces, smartwatches, stylish wristbands, and belt holsters for a seamless blend with personal fashion.

Our medical alert smartwatch is an innovative addition to our range of medical alert systems. This on-the-go system provides 24/7 coverage and can be integrated with an in-home system for comprehensive protection.

Key safety features and innovations of the Sidekick Smart Smartwatch include:

  • 24/7 coverage for prompt assistance
  • GPS tracking to locate users in case of emergency
  • Fall detection technology to automatically alert emergency services
  • Two-way communication for immediate assistance
  • Water-resistant design for use in all conditions

These features contribute largely to improving users’ safety, providing prompt assistance, and offering peace of mind.

Advancements in Fall Detection Technology

Advanced fall detection sensors can now distinguish between normal activities and falls, which helps reduce false alerts. Modern fall detection devices use advanced algorithms that assess a person’s posture, level of physical activity, and smoothness of movements to accurately determine if a fall has occurred.

See more about how fall detection works.

Integrating with Emergency Responders

Wearable sensor devices in medical alert systems can detect falls and alert a monitoring team to contact emergency services if the user confirms the fall or does not respond. Ambient sensor devices enable the monitoring service to initiate contact with emergency responders after detecting a fall when no user response is received.

Medical alert systems, provided by various medical alert companies, offer a range of features to guarantee the safety and well-being of users, including medical alert devices.

Personalizing Your Medical Alert Experience

A medical alert system is not just about the device but the experience it offers.

Be sure to investigate optional features such as medication reminders, daily wellness checks, and the availability of telehealth services to increase your support system.

LifeStation also helps caregivers and family members connect through a dedicated program called Find My Loved One, allowing them to monitor the user’s location and receive updates for added safety.

See more about the Find My Loved One feature.

Custom Contact Lists

Setting up custom contact lists in a medical alert system can be quite simple. For instance, to set up emergency contacts in a Medical ID on an iPhone, users can follow these steps:

  1. Open the Health app
  2. Tap their profile picture
  3. Select Medical ID
  4. Edit their Medical ID
  5. Scroll to Emergency Contacts
  6. Add contacts and specify their relationship

Caregiver notifications can be sent via email, call, or text message to emergency contacts when the user presses the emergency button. Family members will be the second person the monitoring professionals will contact after emergency services.

The best medical alert systems are not just about the technology; they’re about making sure you and your loved ones are safe and informed with the help of a reliable medical alert company.

Tailoring Response Protocols

Medical alert systems allow users to:

  • Create personalized response plans tailored to their needs in emergencies
  • Specify whether to contact emergency services or a designated caregiver when an alarm is triggered
  • Work with monitoring center staff to make sure that their medical history and personal information are accurately on file.

This personal and medical information can be shared with emergency responders to create a quicker and more effective response to incidents.

Summary of How To Choose A Medical Alert System

Choosing the right medical alert system is an important decision that increases safety and independence for you or your loved ones.

This guide has examined the details of medical alert systems, offering insights into the types of systems available, such as in-home and mobile options, and their respective features, like fall detection and GPS tracking.

We’ve highlighted the importance of evaluating personal health conditions, mobility, and living environment to find a system tailored to individual needs. Understanding costs, including potential hidden fees, trial periods, and insurance coverage, is necessary for making an informed financial decision.

We’ve emphasized the importance of comparing medical alert providers based on their reputation, reliability, customer service, and the overall user experience they offer.

By considering these factors, you can select a medical alert system that matches with your specific requirements and also provides reliable emergency response and fits within your budget. This chosen medical system can give you the support you need to live confidently and with peace of mind.

Will Medicare pay for a medical alert system?

Medicare does not usually cover most medical alert systems such as LifeStation, but some Medicare Advantage plans may provide coverage. It’s best to check with your plan provider to confirm coverage options.

How do I choose the best medical alert system?

Consider the device’s battery life, fall detection capability, and the type of system (in-home or on-the-go) that best fits your lifestyle. Additionally, look into the device’s signal range and additional features for caregivers.

What is a medical alert system?

A medical alert system is a combination of hardware and service that allows individuals to call for help during an emergency, assisting them in critical situations.

What are the types of medical alert systems?

The two main types of medical alert systems are in-home and mobile. In-home systems are designed for coverage within the home, while mobile systems use cellular technology and GPS tracking for use both inside and outside the home.


  • Delahoz YS, Labrador MA. Survey on fall detection and fall prevention using wearable and external sensors. Sensors (Basel). 2014 Oct 22;14(10):19806-42. doi: 10.3390/s141019806. PMID: 25340452; PMCID: PMC4239872.

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