With advanced age comes an increased risk of falling and experiencing other medical emergencies. It’s not always possible to reach a telephone when help is needed, which is why many seniors opt to wear a personal emergency response system. Also known as medical alert systems, these lightweight, wireless devices provide an instant phone connection with a monitoring center that can dispatch a friend, loved one or first responders.
Because medical alert users count on their devices in life-threatening situations, medical alert systems must be reliable. How reliable a panic button is depends on a variety of factors such as the quality of the hardware, the stability of the phone connection and the call response provided by the monitoring station.
With an ever-increasing number of companies offering medical alert systems, finding the most reliable devices and services can be difficult. In this article, you’ll find in-depth information about our picks for the three most reliable medical alert systems on the market today. We’ve included details on system hardware, monitoring services and costs, along with tips on how to rate the reliability of a medical alert button.
Philips Lifeline is a well-respected medical alert company that was launched in 1974. The company has served over 7.5 million subscribers since then, and Lifeline systems are used in over 2,500 health care facilities and assisted living communities.
As with all Philips medical alert systems, the Homesafe with Auto Alert system was designed by the company’s engineers and is only available through Philips. The in-home landline-based system includes a communicator equipped with a speakerphone, and a water-resistant AutoAlert fall detection pendant equipped with a non-rechargeable, long-life battery. The battery life is remotely monitored by Philips, and a replacement unit is sent to subscribers as needed.
Calls are processed through one of Philip’s own 24/7 multilingual response centers, and the average answer time is 12 seconds. Subscribers can set up a personalized response plan so that family members or neighbors can be dispatched when the help button is triggered, and operators will contact emergency services when the caller requires police, fire or ambulance service. Costs for the HomeSafe with AutoAlert include a one-time $50 activation fee and recurring $44.95 monthly monitoring charge.
As a Better Business Bureau-accredited medical alert company with an A+ rating, MobileHelp offers best-in-class personal emergency response systems and monitoring services. The company operates two fully redundant call centers in Corona, CA, and Syracuse, NY, staffed by Security Industry Association-certified operators. All MobileHelp call station specialists undergo extensive preemployment screening, and must have completed at least 2 years of college education or military service.
MobileHelp’s Wired Home medical alert system is a maintenance-free, landline-based system that includes a lightweight, waterproof help button and a base station that plugs into an existing landline phone. There’s a 36-hour backup battery in the base that automatically powers the unit during a power outage, and the battery in the panic button is rated to last over 5 years.
Users can choose between a pendant-style or wrist-mounted help button. To call the MobileHelp monitoring center, subscribers simply need to press their wearable button or the call button on the base unit. The wearable buttons work up to 1,300 feet from the base unit, which provides plenty of coverage throughout most homes.
Costs for the MobileHelp Wired Home system are $24.95 per month, or $275.40 on an annual prepaid plan. Subscribers can upgrade to an automatic fall detection pendant for a fee.
Bay Alarm Medical is a California-based provider of home security and monitored medical alert systems. The company maintains three redundant CSAA Five Diamond-certified monitoring centers in Idaho, California and Utah to ensure that no call goes unanswered.
Bay Alarm Medical’s In The Home medical alert system is a basic, maintenance-free system that can be activated within 1,000 feet of the in-home base unit. The system works on an existing landline connection, and a cellular-connected version is available for subscribers without a home phone line.
The waterproof help button is made in the U.S., and it can be worn either on the wrist or a lanyard. There’s a 32-hour backup battery in the speakerphone-equipped base unit, and a 5-year non-rechargeable battery in the panic button. Subscribers can upgrade to an automatic fall detection button, and optional wall-mounted help buttons are available.
The Bay Alarm Medical In The Home system costs $19.95 per month, including use of the hardware, a Vial of Life and 24/7 call monitoring. The cellular-based system is available for $29.95 per month.
Medical alert systems are designed to instantly connect users with a call monitoring center in an emergency situation, such as medical distress or a threat to personal safety. The reliability of a personal emergency response system is critical, particularly if the subscriber has experienced a life-threatening event.
A number of factors affect the reliability of a medical alert system, such as user compliance, quality and durability of the hardware, and how easy the panic button is to activate. The phone connection is also a significant factor, particularly with cellular-connected systems that rely on a strong cell signal.
Start by deciding where medical alert coverage is needed, as many in-home systems can only be activated within a specific range of the base unit, while mobile personal emergency response buttons work anywhere compatible cellular signals are available.
Consider what type of medical alert device is best suited to the user. Some subscribers favor a necklace-style button, while others prefer a wrist-mounted help button. Keep in mind that the medical alert system will only work if the battery in the panic button is charged. If there are concerns over the user’s ability to charge their medical alert button as needed, a system that’s equipped with long-life, non-rechargeable batteries is likely to be more reliable.
Take the time to read reviews from current subscribers, and research industry certifications and consumer ratings. Medical alert companies that maintain more than one call monitoring center are generally regarded as being more reliable than those with a single call center. Having multiple call centers decreases the chances that a call for help will go unanswered due to technical difficulties, power outages or weather-related issues.