Buying a Medical Alert System: Best Questions to Ask
Buying a medical alert system can be frustrating, confusing and time consuming! Here’s a handy list of questions to ask when starting your search for a medical alert system. Whether you are buying from the Medical Alert World marketplace, or doing the research on your own, we recommend you keep this list of top questions for medical alert providers available and refer to it when you need to.
Does your medical alert system require a landline?
Today’s in-home medical alert systems connect via the landline in your home. They connect through the phone jack, and will typically connect with a professional call center if you depress the emergency button. If you don’t have a landline to connect your base station, it’s OK. Most companies today have cellular-enabled base stations. Typical pendant buttons will have a tethered range of 600-1200 feet (radius) from the base station.
What is the range of an in-home medical alert system?
If you have a typical in-home medical alert system, the emergency pendant or wrist button will be wirelessly connected to the base station (in order to alert the call center in case of an emergency). The maximum distance between your med alert button and the base station is the range. It’s usually discussed in terms of radius around a medical alert base station unit. The typical distances start at 600 feet (from the base unit) and some of the more robust alert systems can accommodate up to 1,200 feet (for larger homes or apartments).
Related: Best Medical Alert Systems
Does the provider have a mobile/cellular option?
Mobile (cellular) medical alert systems are a great option for those who spend time outside the home. Typically, cellular-enabled medical alert systems have no range issues as long as you have cellular coverage. Cellular medical alert systems are available from most providers, but they do cost a bit more per month. You can take these devices with you to the mall, the gym or anywhere you wish.
Who installs the medical alert system?
Today’s medical alert systems are simple and easy to set-up. Our team has tested more than a dozen units in the last year alone. IF you’re buying from a local dealer (Philips Lifeline has local dealers in markets around the U.S.) they may set these units up for you for an installation fee. Otherwise, units are sent out via postal service and the consumer is expected to set them up and test them.
Where is the call center located, and what are typical response times?
A number of companies have U.S. based call centers, and we think that’s great. Keep in mind however, some companies outsource call center services. What it really comes down to is the training of the call center staff. Last year we visited one of the top call centers in the country, AvantGuard. We were extraordinarily impressed with the professionalism of the staff and the technology behind it.
If the medical alert company/provider is legitimate, they will have invested heavily in their customer service employees and call center staff. This is another reason NOT to sign long term binding contracts (more on contracts below). IF you get a bad one, you’ll want to leave… asap!
Is the medical alert system waterproof?
Most medical alert systems on the market today are not waterproof, they are water resistant. This has been one of our major complaints about alert devices over the years. Bathrooms are a common source of emergencies/falls for older adults, and they should be worn while bathing and getting in and out of the tub/shower. Unfortunately, many alert pendants are not meant to be submerged, so you’ll want to verify whether you can wear it while showering and/or bathing. Another optional device many companies are offering today is the “bathroom accessory button” which sticks to the wall in the bathroom in case of an emergency.
Do you sell a device with automatic fall detection?
Automatic fall detection notifies the professional monitoring center automatically if it detects that the user has fallen. These pendants contain an accelerometer, just like your smartphone, that can detect sudden movement. It sends a signal based on an algorithm that indicates whether a fall has occurred. It sounds great, and certainly has some benefits, but it’s not perfect. You can read all sorts of stories about automatic fall detection devices that don’t detect falls consistently OR those that signal false positives. It’s up to you to decide whether you or your loved one requires this feature, but just know it will be more expensive, and it won’t be perfect.
What if I no longer require a medical alert system? What is the return policy?
Here’s where it gets tricky for consumers in crisis… The less reputable medical alert companies will lock you into a long term (binding) agreement that forces you to pay through the end of your “term”. This is usually spelled out in the fine print and catches consumers off guard when they are also dealing with a loved one’s changing health condition or passing. Long term contracts in the medical alert industry is one of the primary reasons Medical Alert World was created, to provide consumers with transparent information about these practices. Make sure you understand your options ahead of time so there are no surprises should you need to cancel.
Ask to review a provider’s Terms & Conditions, Pricing and Privacy documents BEFORE you purchase a medical alert system (especially if you’re not buying from one of our featured providers)… All of the companies listed here on Medical Alert World will allow you to cancel your service at anytime, you just need to return the equipment in good working order.
How much does the medical alert system cost?
The best companies in the personal emergency system market bundle their costs into a monthly package. For example, most of the providers you will find at Medical Alert World offer monthly, quarterly and annual packages for their medical alert systems.
Real savings can be found if you pay up front. For example, at one of the companies we reviewed, the six month package average monthly cost was $25. By comparison, the quarterly package average monthly cost was $27. Lastly, the month-to-month payment was $29 per month.
We hope this list helps you ask the right questions prior to purchasing a medical alert system. If we left anything out, let us know in the comments below!