While cell phones are essential tools in ensuring a loved one's safety, medical alert services offer features that take remote care a step further — and that step can certainly be life-saving.
Read on for more on the best medical alert systems, and see if one of these options could help keep you or your family safe.
Our Top Picks for Medical Alert Systems
- Medical Guardian – Best for Unlimited Range
- LifeFone – Best Customer Service
- Bay Alarm Medical – Best for Budget
- Aloe Care Health – Best for Remote Care
Best Medical Alert System Reviews
- Fast response time
- Small mobile device works as a hub for extra emergency buttons on the go
- MyGuardian customer care portal helps connect to caregivers
- Higher monthly cost than many competitors
- Relatively high upfront cost for device
Why we chose Medical Guardian: Medical Guardian’s fast response time along with its highly rated Mobile Guardian 2.0 kit makes it a top choice for people who are frequently on the go.
Medical Guardian has made it a point to promote themselves as a system for active lifestyles. Its Mobile Guardian 2.0, Active Guardian and Mini Guardian devices are lightweight, water-resistant, have long battery lives and use 4G LTE signal.
But, while many medical alert systems provide that as well, there are a quite a few things that make Medical Guardian really stand out.
First, there’s its portable options’ small size and light weight, which make it ideal for travelers. This is paired with fast response times, the MyGuardian app and the extended range that these small models provide when paired up with additional alert buttons.
With the MyGuardian app, caregivers can track the user's location, their activity history and the status of the device itself. This will come in handy for people with an active lifestyle and those who care for them, as they can pinpoint their loved ones’ location at any time, not only if there’s an emergency. And, if an emergency were to occur, Medical Guardian’s monitoring center is said to have very fast response times when compared to competitors.
The Mobile 2.0 also comes with two extra wearable devices with alert buttons. These have significant range, which means you can travel with it and use the Mobile 2.0 itself as a base station.
This can be helpful for people who travel often and stay at family members’ houses or cabins. You can use the smaller help button as a wristband or necklace, and can also share the buttons with a spouse in case you get separated during an adventure in the woods.
One of Medical Guardian’s drawbacks is its comparatively high price. The Mobile Guardian 2.0 costs $124.95 upfront, and then $39.95 per month. Also, their home device is priced higher than the competition’s. However, the convenience for people who are often away from home, can definitely be worth the money.
- Uses both AT&T and Verizon cellular network
- Only $5 for fall detection as opposed to the market average $10
- 32-hour backup in case of power outage
- Caregiver mobile app provides additional information
- Monthly cost slightly higher than competition
Why we chose LifeFone: LifeFone’s use of both AT&T and Verizon cellular connection make it a reliable option for active lifestyles, and their $5 fall detection subscription is among the lowest in the market.
At first glance, LifeFone doesn’t seem that different from other systems. The monthly subscription is slightly higher than the average and their equipment is pretty standard. There are a few important factors, however, that really makes them stand out.
First, LifeFone’s automatic fall detection subscription is only an additional $5, whereas most competitors in the market charge $10. This is a rare find, and considering LifeFone’s excellent features, a great bonus.
Second, LifeFone uses both AT&T and Verizon 4G LTE cell signals, which amplifies its range of service. Most other companies use only one — normally AT&T. This might not be a big deal for most clients, but for people who are very active or travel frequently, it can provide added peace of mind.
But what really makes LifeFone shine is its customer service, which has been widely reviewed and recognized by various websites and associations dedicated to senior care.
Its website is also full of information, from online guides to all its products to individual phone numbers for specific inquiries.
It also has a mobile app called the VIPx Caregiver app, which has movement and location tracking, among other features. It’s an extra $8, though, and isn’t as comprehensive as other competitors’ software.
Although the $24.95 starting price is higher than many of its competitors’ $19.99, having no activation or upfront equipment fees, along with cheaper fall detection, makes LifeFone a worthy option to care for your loved ones.
- Low monthly cost
- No equipment fees with the basic plans
- Stylish smartwatch option
- No cancellation fees
- Watch is expensive
Why we chose Bay Alarm Medical: The system covers all the bases with one of the lowest monthly fees in the market, along with free equipment with no contract attached.
Bay Alarm Medical starts at $21.95, which is on the lower end considering many go for $24.95. What makes it really stand out from the competition though, is the lack of contracts, or equipment and activation fees (which can often cost as much as $99). This makes their basic in-home package an ideal medical alert system if you’re on a budget.
As many other companies do, they also have a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee trial period.
Their mobile subscription is also on the less-expensive side at $29.95 per month, although this one has an added cost of $99 for the portable device. However, you can bundle the mobile button with GPS tracking and 4G LTE along with the in-home unit for $41.95.
What could raise Bay Alarm’s cost significantly is their SOS Smartwatch, which costs $179.
For home landline systems, Bay Alarm is one of the best deals you can get — however, if you want added features and on-the-go service, some of the other choices on this list might be a better deal.
- Has voice-activated hub
- Live updates on the status of the user through a mobile app
- Highly rated monitoring service
- Upfront price for the devices is high
Why we chose Aloe Care Health: Aloe Care Health has one of the most comprehensive kits out there, and includes live updates on the activity and well-being of the user.
Aloe Care Health is easily one of the most technologically advanced medical alert companies. From their voice-activated hub to the motion sensors and the mobile app, their entire system is designed to keep caregivers updated on the status and health of the user.
The user can call for help using the voice-activated hub, and doing so will send automatic notifications to a designated caretaker even before the monitoring center answers. It also has motion sensors and can detect air quality and temperature.
If you get the Total Care bundle for $49.99 a month and pay the upfront price of $349.99 for the equipment, you also get a wall-mounted Smart Fall Sensor for the bathroom, and two extra motion sensors to place around the house. This provides an added layer of security for users who are vulnerable to falls.
As with many medical alert systems, Aloe Care is connected to a certified call center. However, the mobile app and easy connection to a specific person or family member is probably the most valuable feature. It’s very comprehensive in its capabilities; family members or caregivers can check in constantly and even talk and collaborate amongst themselves.
Some of the features included in the app are:
- Check if the devices are online
- Call any specific device around the house
- Receive instant notifications if the user calls for help in any way
- Monitor each motion sensor individually to ascertain the person's location
- Check air and temperature quality
- Form messaging groups with other assigned caregivers
Other medical alert system companies we considered
While most medical alert systems and devices are very similar, some are just a touch too expensive, or have base units that seem limited and outdated when compared to other options.
Some of these companies still provide a good service however, and might be a good fit for certain people. Read on to see some of the medical alert companies that didn’t quite make the cut.
- Low monthly cost starting at $19.95
- No equipment fees
- Slower response time when compared to competitors
- Easy two-way communication with the user
- Non-monitored plan options
- More expensive than most
- Only one model available
- Great fall detection technology
- Stylish and inconspicuous wearable device
- Fast response time
- Requires a smartphone and app to use
- Requires a smartphone and app to use
- More expensive than most
- Faster response time than many
- No activation fees
- More expensive than competitors
- Outdated look
- Mobile device is Alexa-compatible
- Smartwatch option available
- Claim to have the fastest response time
- Pricier than average at $37.95 for their mobile service
- Discounts for AARP members
- Intelligent location history helps tracking even if the device is off
- Assisted GPS service is more reliable than traditional GPS
- Comparatively expensive, over $40 for any plan with cellular signal
Medical Alert Systems Guide
While many medical alert systems seem to provide very similar services at comparable prices, there are still important aspects to know in order to choose the right medical alert system for you or your loved one. Read on to better understand the factors that really make a difference.
What is a medical alert system?
A medical alert system is a device or set of devices that aid a person — typically older adults or people with disabilities — in case of a medical emergency. Its main purpose is to contact a monitoring service, a close relative, guardian or the local authorities in case of an emergency.
These systems usually include a base station as well as small, wearable necklaces or wristbands with a button. Users can then communicate with the company’s monitoring service with a single click of a button.
More advanced options also include automatic fall detection, GPS tracking, two-way communication (like a walkie-talkie) and more.
Many systems provide additional services or accessories such as medication reminders, wall buttons, optional fall detection, a free lockbox to give a designated person access to your home, customized touchscreen tablets, motion sensors and more.
How do medical alert systems work?
There are two main components to most medical alert systems: the hardware and the service.
Hardware. The most recognized medical alert devices — those immortalized in the well-known “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials — are the traditional necklaces or bracelets with a help button, which the person uses to alert relatives, the authorities or the company’s monitoring center.
Although they’re now sleeker and less conspicuous than they used to be, the overall design has remained the same thanks to how easy they are to use in high-stress situations.
However, although medical alerts’ looks haven’t changed much, the technology has advanced quite considerably. Some systems include an entire set of devices, like voice-activated hubs — similar to Google and Alexa smart speakers — and smart accessories that track vital signs and more.
The hubs are a hands-free alternative with which people can literally call out for help and talk to a designated caregiver. Some smart accessories take it a step further, constantly keeping tabs on a person and alerting relatives and the device’s monitoring service if there’s an issue — for example, if the wearer is unconscious or unable to move. Some of these, especially chest-worn models, have fall-detection technology.
These advanced options can also help with prevention since they could, for example, catch irregular vitals early on and allow caretakers to take action before any accidents actually occur.
Service. So, who do these devices call when you press that button? While some of them simply contact local authorities or a designated caretaker, most medical alert providers have monitoring personnel on call 24/7.
Many of the operators — depending on the company — are trained to assess the situation and determine the right course of action, from guiding the patient out of a dangerous situation to getting emergency responders to the site.
Some of the main advantages of these systems lie in simplicity of use and portability. If the person falls, for example, they can call for help with a simple click of the button instead of trying to move to find a cellphone.
Additionally, the monitoring center will have all the necessary medical information about the patient on hand. Knowing illnesses, medications and prior accidents can help them create personalized emergency response systems that are appropriate for each patient.
Bear in mind, however, that if there’s a medical emergency, these operators will have to call 911 or whichever emergency response they deem necessary. This means that contacting a monitoring center, instead of 911 directly, could lead to longer waits for emergency services to arrive at the scene.
It's important to look at the different options for contact, such as alerting family members when the button is activated. Some non-monitored alert systems are also pre-programmed to contact 911 automatically, or can be set up to call a specific number, such as a designated caretaker.
Types of medical alert systems
In-Home Units. In-home units are limited to the user's home and are a good choice for people who don’t leave the house at all, or that only walk out into the back or front yard. These can be connected to a landline (which tend to have a lower monthly payment), or use Wi-Fi or have a cellular connection. Wearable accessories are still part of the kit, but they connect to the home-based hub, so they have a limited range.
Mobile Units. Mobile GPS units can be either wearable accessories connected to a home-based system or completely wireless devices that use GPS or cellular signals like 4G LTE from different providers such as AT&T or Verizon.
These are better options for patients who lead active lives and regularly leave the house, whether it be for doctor’s appointments, daily grocery shopping or more daring adventures. They provide the same access and services as home-based units everywhere you go — provided you have a signal.
How much does a medical alert system cost?
There are two main factors that impact the cost of medical alert systems: the one-time price of the device or devices, and the ongoing payment for the service, which is usually a monthly fee.
Most basic medical alert systems charge for the equipment upfront, and range in price from $99 for a single in-home hub, all the way up to $300 or more if you get a kit with multiple devices, such as a smartwatch and a touchscreen tablet.
However, some companies offer the equipment for free or include it in the monthly payments. There are also companies that offer free equipment with their basic plans and only charge if you buy more technologically advanced options.
The other part of the price is the monthly or annual payments, which are meant to pay for the monitoring services. These will range from $19.95 to around $49.95, depending on the devices you choose and whether you want cellular service. Many companies offer discounts if you pay annually instead of monthly.
Are medical alert systems covered by Medicare?
Unfortunately, medical alert systems are not usually covered by Medicare A and B since they are not considered medically necessary equipment under Federal law. However, Medicare Advantage plans, also known as Medicare Part C, might cover them, depending on the situation. Medicaid might also partially cover the cost of medical alert systems, but it depends on the state.
What to know when choosing the right medical alert system
Price. The average price is between $19.95 and $22.95 for a landline model, and anywhere from $24.95 to $29.95 for a model using a cellular network. Subscriptions with mobile GPS and cellular network devices can start at $29.95, with most hovering around $39.95.
It’s also important to keep the upfront cost of equipment in mind. Many companies offer free in-home base units, while others will charge you anywhere from $40 to $100. Mobile devices are more expensive, and most companies charge anywhere between $60 to more than $200, depending on the model.
Devices and plans. Other than the price of the devices, it's important to keep your loved one's lifestyle in mind. An in-home unit could be enough for a person that’s pretty healthy and mobile, but barely leaves the house. On the other hand, people that often leave the house by themselves will probably need a mobile device that uses wireless service.
If a person needs constant emergency monitoring, consider more advanced options that keep tabs on that person all day, tracking their movement, location and even their surroundings like air quality and temperature.
Devices that allow for easy two-way communication — think voice-activated devices and wearable attachments with microphones — can also be helpful. This way, you don’t have to depend on the other person keeping their phone with them at all times.
Response time. A medical alert system’s response time is crucial. Whereas an emergency call to 911 is usually answered in less than 30 seconds, medical alert monitoring systems tend to be slower.
Their advantage lies in the simplicity with which users can contact them and the fact that operators have instant access to all their information, both personal and medical. However, too long a wait can still be fatal.
Unfortunately, while there’s no sure-fire way to find out each system’s response speed ahead of time, there is third-party testing available and anecdotal evidence provided in online reviews. You can also check whether the monitoring center has received any certifications, such as the Five Diamond recognition by The Monitoring Association, to have an idea of how reliable it is.
Commitment. Make sure you check whether a company requires you to sign a long-term contract or commit to its services for a prolonged amount of time. Some companies might seem cheaper at first but charge fees if you decide to end the contract, which would cancel out any savings you had in the first place.
Many companies are promoting themselves as no-commitment services, meaning no contract and no cancellation fees. Also, check how long their trial period is — most offer 30 days, which is long enough to test the product.
How We Chose the Best Medical Alert Systems
Although medical alert systems are very similar to each other, we focused on the following three main characteristics:
Price. We looked for companies with prices lower than the market average, or that offer more for your money, in terms of hardware and service. Offers like free equipment or the ability to pay for it in monthly installments were big pluses in our book.
Equipment. Systems with mobile apps, motion sensors, advanced range and more piqued our interest, provided they were paired with a reputation for good customer service and great pricing.
It also gave us an idea about just how frequently these companies are revisiting their catalog and keeping up with the market. Outdated equipment with a simple button might work just the same as more modern-looking ones, but it might indicate the company’s not keeping up with current technology.
Reviews and certifications. In order to get an idea about each company’s customer service, we read through hundreds of online reviews, and looked for recognition from certain websites and organizations specialized in senior care and monitoring. We also called the companies to see how transparent they were with information regarding pricing and contracts.