Medical alert systems are electronic monitoring and communications devices that rapidly summon help in case of an emergency. When a senior, or a person with limited mobility and health issues, suffers a fall or a medical emergency, the alert system can establish two-way conversation with a trained emergency dispatcher. The dispatcher can then summon help from local fire and medical first responders. Many medical alert system providers also offer a secure lockbox that can hold a key for emergency crews to gain access if nobody can open the door for them.
Most medical alert systems use a base unit that has to be installed somewhere in the home, along with wall units and optional mobile devices. Some mobile devices are simple pendants, while others are smartwatches with downloadable apps. Some units have maximum ranges within which they can communicate with the base, while others connect with any available cellular network. This can drastically extend a mobile unit’s range.
When you’re choosing a medical alert system, it can be hard to pick between the technical language and sales writing to find out what you need to know. In this guide, we are comparing two of the most popular and cost-effective systems in the medical alert market to help seniors and their loved ones choose a system that’s best for them. This side-by-side comparison should leave the reader with a better understanding of what to look for in a medical alert system, even if the final choice is from a brand other than the two discussed here.
For this guide, we compared the main product lines from Medical Guardian and MobileHelp. Both of these brands offer basic packages with several expansion options, and though some of the optional extras are not directly equivalent, it has been possible to broadly examine both side by side. The products are stacked against each other for cost, durability and expansion potential for activities both inside and outside of the home.
What we found was a close comparison between two basically strong brands. Medical Guardian has five product lines to offer, while MobileHelp only has three, but both companies offer very similar coverage for remote monitoring, mobile units and fall detection. MobileHelp does consistently beat Medical Guardian for monthly pricing, though the initial startup cost of $49.95 can be a drawback.
Seniors who want the lowest monthly pricing may opt for MobileHelp, whose Classic system works out to 600 feet and costs just $19.95 a month, plus an extra $10 for automatic fall detection. Seniors interested in more range and flexibility, however, might prefer the Mobile Guardian system, which has a wider product line and unlimited range for two of its product offerings.
|Company Name||Medical Guardian||MobileHelp|
|Monthly Cost||$29.95 to $79.95||$19.95 to $41.95|
|Start-up fees||None||$49.95 for Classic, $0 for Solo and Duo models|
|Device configuration||In-home and mobile||In-home and mobile|
|Battery life||1 to 5 days, depending on model||24 hours with 30-hour backup|
|Maximum range||600 feet to unlimited range for cellular mobile units||600 feet|
|Fall detection||$10 a month||$10 a month|
Medical Guardian’s five alert systems all come with free activation, and the various add-on options are very reasonably priced for the market. A $9.95 shipping fee applies for new orders of equipment, though the company waives this and offers free shipping for customers who sign up on an annual payment plan. Automatic fall detection is offered as a premium option on all five product lines, though monitoring costs an additional $10 a month.
Long battery life and backup power supplies for every unit in the Medical Guardian system help ensure users are never left unprotected at home, and the potentially unlimited range of both the Mobile Guardian and Active Guardian devices extend coverage far enough for shopping trips and travel out of town. These two products use the AT&T cellular network, which makes a landline phone connection unnecessary.
MobileHelp gets top billing for its extremely affordable service. The three systems the company offers are all priced for seniors on fixed incomes, with the most affordable being its Classic system for just $19.95 a month. This is the lowest price on the market for home-based medical alert systems, and the Solo and Duo packages are similarly competitive with the rest of the market. MobileHelp does charge a one-time fee of $49.95 for setting up the Classic package, though the company waives the fee with quarterly, semi-annual and annual payment plans. Solo and Duo systems come with no upfront fee. MobileHelp is also unusual among medical alert system companies by not charging for an in-home cellular connection, which eliminates a common hidden fee many other companies add to the bill.
MobileHelp’s product offerings are fairly simple. The Classic model is the home unit, the Solo option is the mobile device, and the Duo package bundles both for $41.95 a month. An additional fee of $10 buys automatic fall detection, just as it does with Medical Guardian. All of the devices MobileHelp uses have between 24- and 30-hour batteries, and each comes with a backup power supply to keep the system online while charging.
The two companies in this comparison are roughly evenly matched in most categories, from the range and capabilities of the hardware to the base price and premium options available. Both are comparable in the range of prices they offer, though MobileHelp is somewhat less expensive at every level of service. Medical Guardian does offer a wider range of services, and the higher prices the company charges are mostly for the higher options packages. Despite the differences, the two companies are close enough in their offerings that either could fill a niche for different seniors.
Customers who are looking for the lowest possible cost for a medical alert system can find an adequate home system from MobileHelp for less than $20 a month. At the higher levels of service, both the MobileHelp Duo and Medical Guardian Active Guardian systems are similarly priced. Where Medical Guardian comes into its own is in the extra range and flexibility the multiple service options provide. The Active Guardian, for example, has unlimited range and a 5-day battery that make it an attractive choice for seniors who plan to travel more than a few hundred feet from home.If you are looking for a medical alert system for yourself or for a senior you care for, both Medical Guardian and MobileHelp have several options that can work for protection both at home and away. Read our article about paying for medical alert systems to learn more about your options.