Med Alert: What Medical Alert System Will Meet Your Needs in 2018/2019?

In this post we will look at the unique features and selling points of each of the top 6 medical alert systems currently on the market. We will also show you what is not so different between theses products so you don't spend hours comparing features that aren't really that different after all.
med alert

If you have found this post, you have already determined that you or your loved one may benefit from a medical alert system.   You know that having a live operator standing by 24/7 to offer assistance at the push a a button is not only going to make you feel safe but can also increase your independence and confidence wherever you go.

But, there are so many to choose from, so many features, and so many ads declaring that they are the best:

Which one is right for you?

Which one will meet your specific needs and challenges?

In this post we will look at the unique features and selling points of each of the top 6 medical alert systems currently on the market. We will also show you what is not so different between theses products so you don’t spend hours comparing features that aren’t really that different after all.  We’ve done the work for you so that YOU will have the tools you need to feel confident in choosing a system that is right for you or your loved one.

Medical Alert Systems for this post were selected based on their overall ratings as an indicator of customer satisfaction and with a nursing mindset.  I have been a Registered Nurse for over 10 years providing direct care to seniors in my community and know how important it is for seniors to receive prompt medical care in the event of an emergency.  I have also seen first hand the sometimes devastating effects of those who do not.

Medical Alert Systems: The Short Story

  • Lifestation is ideal for English speaking home-bound seniors who are looking for a simple, effective and low cost basic medical alert system.
  • ADT medical alert is ideal for seniors who already have ADT home security and just want to add a simple extra layer of protection in case they need it without adding another company to their list of monthly bills.
  • Mobilehelp is ideal for active seniors speaking nearly any native language and who may have a long term medical condition or concern (such as diabetes or a heart condition) and wish to assure their safety in the community with a reliable but non-extensive medical alert system.
  • Bay Alert Medical is ideal for the relatively healthy, active senior or senior couple who desire an easily accessible, reliable medical alert system whether they are out driving, walking in the park, or simply eating breakfast in their own home.
  • Greatcall (also called Lively Mobile) is ideal for active seniors who desire, or need, increased access to medical professionals along with a mobile safety device to help keep them safe and manage their healthcare needs.
  • Lifefone is ideal for active tech savvy seniors who already regularly carry and use an Apple or Android smartphone and want medical or safety help at their fingertips, or for seniors who would benefit from a medical alert system that provides regular check in and assistance from a live human being.

What Each System Has

emergency response

Pricing:

Basic packages generally start around $20-30/month with add-on benefits or plan options available.   No contracts are required but buying more than 1 month can save you money for some products. Many providers also offer a price-lock guarantee so that your monthly rate will never increase for the same plan.

Medicare or Medicaid Coverage:

Medicare: At this time Medicare Bart B will not cover the cost of medical alert systems.  However, there are a number of Medicare Advantage plans that will especially if the user has a specific medical conditions.   Check with you Medical Advantage plan to see if they cover the cost of your medical alert system.

Medicaid:   Medicaid generally will cover the cost of medical alert systems through various Medicaid programs in different states.  If you receive Medicaid assistance check with your local agent to see what programs are available in your state.

Types of System available:

Landline: all providers (except Mobilehelp and Greatcall) offer landline service

Cellular in home and/or GPS on the go devices: available from all providers.  Most use AT&Ts network for their non-landline devices.   You do NOT have to have AT&T as your personal phone provider to use theses systems.  However, its a very good idea to check AT&T coverage in your area before considering a cellular or GPS powered medical alert system.

Equipment:

The physical equipment (base stations, phone, pendents, wrist bands, etc) offered by each medical alert provider are generally very easy to install and use with minimal maintenance (if any) required.   Most pendents, wrist bands, and even GPS devices are either water proof or highly water resistant allowing you to safely wear them while bathing.   Companies offer warranties and or optional equipment protection plans to further guarantee their products will work and keep working for you as long as you need them.

Response time:

The time it takes between pushing your help button and having a live operator talking to you is usually between 17-45 seconds, depending the the provider.   In most cases these response times are not statistically significant when it comes to receiving proper medical care.   The greater concern is having no way to call for help at all.

Call Centers: 

All call centers reviewed are US based and many of the providers own and operate their own facilities.  All call staff are well trained and most are certified in

  1. helping their customers remain calm
  2. acquiring the help their customer needs (contacting emergency services or designated family/friends)
  3. remaining on the line with their customer until help arrives.

Automatic Fall Detection: 

All providers have an automatic fall system accessory or plan package that can be purchased for a small monthly fee to offer customers extra security in the event of a fall.  This is in addition to the medical alert system you already have.  It does not replace your medical alert system.

NOT ALL FALLS will be detected.  However, nearly any fast or high impact fall where injury is most likely to occur should be recognized by the systems which will automatically call for help.   If the user is not able to verbally respond (due to being unconscious from a sudden stroke, heart attack, or head injury for example) a pre-set emergency plan will be activated to send help right away.

Lock box:

A combination lock box to hold your house key, will  usually be offered by your medical alert provider so that if emergency services need to enter your locked home to help you, your medical alert center operator can provide them with the code to let them in your home without breaking down your door.  Nearly every provider reviewed offered free (with certain packages) or very low cost lock box options.

Pacemakers:

There is little to no evidence that medical alert systems will interfere with a pacemakers.   Most medical alert companies confidentially indicate that their products will not interfere with a pace maker device, while others recommend speaking directly with the company and the medical professional that follows you regarding your pacemaker just to make sure.

To help eliminate any potential risk, medical alert pendents and cellular/GPS devices being used by an individual with a pacemaker should follow the same guidelines as using a cell phones with a pace maker.  In general, keep your device about 6 inches to 1 foot from your chest.  This means don’t keep your device in your left breast pocket or around your neck and try to avoid talking on it with your left ear if possible.

So, What’s the Difference?

Lifestation

Lifestation offers a simple, cost effective set of options for your medical alert system needs.  They have a good reputation among users and make reasonable efforts to assure customer satisfaction.  They do not have a lot of fancy upgrades or special features but stick with the basics to get the job done.

The plus side:

  1. Automatic weekly self check of alarm systems
  2. Certified USA call center
  3. email notifications to loved ones of “calls”
  4. free battery replacement when needed
  5. 30 day cancellation policy

The down side:

  1. English speaking (possibly bilingual) only
  2. Lifestation only collects emergency contact information to guide them in an emergency.  No medical information such as medications, allergies, or medical conditions are collected.  This means having a secondary system in your home such as MEDalert, or a Vial of Life may be necessary to provide emergency services with vital information for you care, especially when you are not able to speak for yourself.
  3. Does not offer GPS tracking
  4. Does not offer any medical or check in services.

Who’s it for?

Lifestation is ideal for English speaking home-bound seniors who are looking for a simple, effective and low tech medical alert system.

ADT

ADT, best known for their long standing (over 100 years) reliable home and business security systems, has now expanded into the medical alert market.   They offer a full range of services from in home landline options to on the go GPS tracking that can also be added to existing home security system plans.

The plus side:

  1. 6 month money back guarantee
  2. lifetime product warranties
  3. free activation for new customers
  4. All product user guides/manuals are available on the company website
  5. Can combine medical alert system with existing ADT home security system.

The down side:

  1. No fall detection option if using a landline product
  2. Shorter back-up battery life and ranges that other systems reviewed.
  3. No automatic system testing but does provider a reminder light to test products.
  4. Does not offer medical or check in services.

Who is it for?

ADT medical alert is ideal for seniors who already have ADT home security and just want to add a simple extra layer of protection in case they need it without adding another company to their list of monthly bills. Click here to read the full ADT Review.

Mobilehelp

Mobilehelp provides US certified call centers to meet the needs of today’s on the go seniors.   Their latest product features a smart watch medical alert system with bold simple icons that are easy to read and use while keeping the medical alert device discreet in the community.

Mobilehelp does collect your medical information, including medications, allergies, and medical conditions to assist you and emergency services as needed.  However, you are responsible to periodically update this information with Mobilehelp when your medications change, you develop a new allergy, or are given a new diagnosis.

The plus side:

  1. 30 day money back
  2. cancel at any time
  3. translating available up to 240 languages at call centers
  4. online mapping/locator option so family/friends can track your location
  5. medication reminder options through base station (automated)

The down side:

  1. no landline option
  2. no automatic testing of alert system, you must self test your device
  3. base-station for mobile device is bulky to carry
  4. Does not offer any medical or check in services.

Who’s it for?

Mobilehelp is ideal for active seniors speaking nearly any native language and who may have a long term medical condition or concern (such as diabetes or a heart condition) and wish to assure their safety in the community with a reliable but non-extensive medical alert system.

Bay Alert Medical

Bay Alert Medical has a long standing positive reputation in the medical alert industry.   They offer both basic in home and hi tech on the go monitoring systems including systems to help protect you in your car and also free spouse protection.

Bay Alert Medical does collect your basic medical information such as allergies and medications at intake, called a Vial of Life form, and assists you to place it in a visible location in your home/wallet/purse.  Bay Alert Medical staff do not use this information or provide it to emergency services when you call, but they will tell emergency services where you have the information in the event of an emergency.

The plus side:

  1. 30 day trial and bundle savings
  2. cancel at any time
  3. automatic weekly self system testing and pendent battery replacement
  4. translators available for numerous languages through call center
  5. FREE spouse protection
  6. GEOfence option notifies family/friends if you are moving out of a pre-determined geographical area
  7. In car alert system/locator with automatic crash detector to automatically call for help if a crash is detected.

The down side:

  1. No medication reminder system
  2. Does not offer any medical or check in services.
  3. Large, potentially overwhelming amount of options and add-ons available.
  4. you must keep your Vial of Life information up to date and keep it in the same spot at all times.

Who’s it for?

Bay Medical Alert is ideal for the relatively healthy, english or non-english speaking active senior or senior couple who desire an easily accessible, reliable medical alert system whether they are out driving, walking in the park, or simply eating breakfast in their own home.

Greatcall

Greatcall, also called Lively Mobile,  is a mobile only (cellular/GPS Jitterbug flip or smart phone or Lively device) medical alert system offering its customers a wide variety of innovative services including access around the clock to live nurses and doctors (they are even able to provide some simple prescriptions over the phone without an appointment or insurance), verbal medication reminders, and automated check in calls and even motivational call services tailored to it’s customers individual needs and preferences.

Greatcall can collect (per your preference) a wide variety of personal information including your medical information, vehicle identification, frequently visited places (stores, church, friend’s houses), as well as emergency contacts.   In the event of an emergency, Greatcall operators are also able to add in your family contacts, 911 operators, or even a nurse to your emergency call so that you can all talk and decide how best to get you the help you need.

The plus side:

  1. offer promotions and low pricing
  2. Translators available for multiple languages at their call centers
  3. Options to connect with live nurses or MD
  4. Automated check in calls available per your request for basic well being, sleep, appetite and pain
  5. Automated medication reminders
  6. Greatcall Link allows caregivers to see calls that have been made, your most recent GPS location, and even if the batteries on low on your device so that they can call and remind you to put the device on its charger.

The down side:

  1. no landline option
  2. You need more than one emergency plan if you are using the automated medication reminders or Check in calls in case you miss a call.
  3. You need to update Greatcall if you have any medical changes or get a new car or even start going to a new location regularly (if you opted to share this information with them).
  4. There are numerous, potentially overwhelming,  add-ons available, most of which cost extra unless you purchase a high end package.

Who’s it for?

Greatcall, Lively Mobile, is ideal for active seniors who desire, or need, increased access to medical professionals along with a mobile safety device to help keep them safe and manage their healthcare needs.

Lifefone

Lifefone is known for their customer friendly policies.   They uniquely offer a Mobile help/medical alert app for existing Apple or Android smart phone users at a very low monthly cost and continues to provide standard medical alert in home and one the go systems.  Lifefone also offers a live person medication reminders or check in at an additional cost and Free spouse protection.

Lifefone does collect your medical information including medications, allergies, medical conditions, and doctors to assist you in a medical emergency as well as providing this information to emergency service personnel.   Their caregiver portal allows their customer loved ones to check in on their last GPS location and call history.

The plus side:

  1. price lock on plans, 30 day money back guarantee and cancel anytime policies
  2. Free Spouse protection
  3. live person calls for medication reminders or daily check ins are available.
  4. Lifetime equipment guarantee and devices contain long lasting, remotely supervised batteries that are replaced for free.
  5. Mobile App available for existing Apple or Android phones

The down side:

  1. You must update Lifefone on your medical/personal changes
  2. You may need to have multiple emergency plans in place if using the live call check ins in case you miss a call.
  3. No automatic device checks although batteries are remotely monitored.
  4. You must switch between devices when charging to maintain coverage with some systems.

Who’s it for?

Lifefone is ideal for active tech savvy seniors who already regularly carry and use an Apple or Android smartphone and want medical or safety help at their fingertips, or for seniors who would benefit from a medical alert system that provides regular check in and assistance from a live human being.

A Final Word on Medical Alerts:

active seniors

Each of the above medical alert systems was selected for this post because the companies and products they provide are outstanding.   However, no medical alert system is perfect and each is only as good as the accurate information you provide them.  It is essential with any system you choose to make sure that the contact, medical, and any other information you give them remains up to date at all times.

If you are looking at a simple, straight forward, in-home system Lifestation or even ADT may be great for you.

If you are looking for an on the go system for an active, healthy senior with few medication or medical concerns then Bay Alert Medical or Lifefone may be great for you

Finally, if you are looking for an on the go system for an active senior who needs increased medical assistance or help with medications then Mobilehelp or Greatcall are your best bet.

Andrea D BSN-RN

Andrea D BSN-RN

Andrea D is a registered nurse who has spent over a decade providing hands on care and education for seniors and their loved ones in multiple care settings as well as in both metropolitan and rural areas.

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