announcement

Share some useful wellness tips.

Compare Medical Alert Systems

Compare Medical Alert Systems

While you are away from home, you want a disabled family member to have an access to professional assistance, in case of an emergency. One of the ways to achieve this is to install a medical alert system in your home. To get information about the options that are available to you, read on...
Shrinivas Kanade
Medical alert systems are useful for disabled persons who may need help if a medical emergency arises. These systems consist of a radio transmitter; base unit with a console, an ultra-sensitive microphone, two-way speaker, and a monitoring or response center. The base unit is connected to the monitoring station over the Internet, using VoIP or DSL technology.

The radio transmitter, which comes mostly as a pendant, bracelet, or a wrist watch is a small wireless equipment with a waterproof button on it. When the button is pressed, the transmitter sends a signal to the in-house base unit that is connected to the standard phone line. The base unit automatically dials the pre-programmed phone number of the monitoring station, sends a help signal, thereby activating the microphone and the two-way speaker. After a connection is established, the user can explain his situation to the operator in the monitoring station.
Internet Technology
The type of Internet connection available in your locality or the one you have opted for, is of importance when it comes to choosing a service provider to get in contract with.
  • VoIP (Voice over IP) Technology: Signals generated by alert systems need to be converted from digital to analog, while using VoIP. This may distort the signal and hence, VoIP is not considered reliable. A few companies like VRI have developed special adapters to solve this problem and are using VoIP technology without a problem.
  • DSL Technology: This technology uses special hardware to maintain a digital connection between the base unit and the monitoring station. There is no conversion and distortion of the signals. The distance from the monitoring station and the condition of the wires impose limitations on the use of this technology. Companies like AlertOne serve only those with DSL connections.
Number of Users
Based on the number of users that a base unit serves, medical alert systems are of two types:
  • Individual User: The base unit is installed in the home for an individual's personal use and the alert signal is responded to by the monitoring center.
  • Multiple Users: The base unit is placed in a building or hospital to serve as many as 1,000 users. Each individual is provided with a transmitter of his own, and signals from it are monitored and responded to by a nurse's station, or by the monitoring center.
Range and Backup
Medical alert systems are differentiated on the basis of the indoor and outdoor range they can cover. The indoor range of the products varies from 25 to 100 meters. Whereas, the outdoor range varies from 200 to 500 meters, with the base unit at the center of the range. Medical alert systems come with an internal battery backup. In case of a power failure, it enables the user to establish a connection with the monitoring station. The battery backup lasts for 12 to 80 hours, depending on the type of the product.
Service Provider
On the basis of their primary business functions, companies that provide medical alert systems can be segregated as follows:
  • Companies in burglar alarms business.
  • Companies that are basically in security and related services.
  • Companies that alert the subscriber's friends, family, or the emergency services on receiving a help signal from a subscriber.
  • Companies that specialize in monitoring. On receiving a help signal from a subscriber, the monitoring station attendants talk to him and, if necessary, send an emergency squad.
Certifications
Service providers can further be differentiated on the basis of certifications obtained by their central monitoring station operatives. When a central monitoring station is called 100% certified, it means 100% of its operators hold either of the following certificates.
  • Underwriters Laboratories (U.L.) Inc. is a leading organization in U.S. product safety certification. Only 525 central monitoring stations are U.L. certified.
  • The Central Station Association of America conducts courses for the central station operators and a successful candidate is awarded a Five Diamond Certification.
Most service providers use devices made in China or Taiwan, but there are a few companies that use 'Made in USA' equipment. VRI is one such company that manufactures its own equipment and trains its monitoring station operatives to give an all-under-one-roof service.
Charges
A monitoring center keeps a 24x7 watch over the help signal for a fee. Before contracting a monitoring center, a user should check whether it provides a multilingual service or not. A medical alert system can be purchased or rented from a service provider. Installation charges vary from company to company. Some companies like AlertOne provide free assistance for the installation of the system.
Additional Equipment and Expenditure
In case of a medical crisis, an emergency squad dispatched to your home, in response to the help signal may have to enter your home and will need a key to do so. Invest some money in a lockbox to store the key and attach it to the door to make it accessible to the emergency team.
Factors to Considered
  • Rating
  • Installation cost
  • Monitoring features
  • Additional services
  • Customer service
  • Activation fees
  • Connects to phone jack
  • Cancellation fee
  • Calls emergency contact
  • Internet connection
  • Available in your area
  • Free equipment delivery
  • Range
  • Device manufacture
  • Alert console
  • Lighted help button
  • 2-way communication
  • Help button pendant
  • Wristband available
  • Pendant answers phone
  • Backup console battery
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Waterproof pendant
  • Multi-lingual service
  • Lockbox
  • Voice extenders
  • Additional user button
  • Bathroom/Hall button
  • Check-in service
  • 911 (emergency)
  • Medical dispensers
  • GPS device
  • Fall detection
  • 24/7 monitoring
  • 24/7 tech support
  • U.L. certified
  • Online account access
  • Toll-free phone
  • Email
  • Total cost
Comparison and Review Table
Features Alert One Philips LifeLine LifeFone Walgreen's LifeStation
Installation (scale 1-10) 8 - 8.5 7 - 7.5 9.5 - 10 7 - 7.5 9.5 - 10
Monitoring Features (scale 1-10) 9.5 - 10 9.5 - 10 9.5 - 10 9.5 - 10 8 - 8.5
Activation Fee No Yes No No No
Pendant Answers Phone calls Yes Yes Yes No No
Calls Emergency Contact Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Multi-Lingual Service No No No Yes No
Bathroom/Hallway Button Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Medical Dispensers No Yes No No No
Range (feet) 600 800 1,000 250 400
24x7 Technical Support No No Yes Yes Yes
Price $25.95 $41.00 $24.95 $34.95 $29.95
In addition to the services provided for a medically challenged individual, some service providers offer more options. A person using a medication dispenser can consult the monitoring station operative, about the course of action he should take, in case he forgets a dose. A few systems also provide a smoke alert facility, and on receiving a fire signal, the monitoring station operative takes appropriate action. This could prove very helpful for those with restricted movements. This system can be said to be, quite literally, at the subscriber's beck and call, thereby providing him or her with a sense of security.