Comparing the Top Medical Alert Systems

Seniors and disabled people who live alone shouldn’t rely solely on a smartphone for personal safety. It’s too easy to absentmindedly leave it in another room or forget to charge it.

A monitored medical alert system is a far better choice in the event of a health emergency, fall, fire, or break-in. These devices don’t just provide peace of mind. They save lives.

What Is a Medical Alert System?

A medical alert system, sometimes called a personal emergency response system, is basically a wearable alarm. Most have a necklace with a wireless alarm button. When it’s activated, the alarm monitoring company dispatches emergency personnel and alerts friends or family members who are on the contact list. Monitored systems offer security 24/7.

Optional features, service plans, prices, and contract lengths vary, so choosing the right device can prove challenging. If you’re buying a system for a loved one, be sure you discuss features with them or have a thorough understanding of what type of device will best suit their needs.

What to Look for in a Medical Alert System

First, decide between a home-based or mobile system.

Some home-based systems work within a cellular network if there is no landline. They include a stationary unit with a highly sensitive speaker. When the panic button is activated, the user can talk to the dispatcher. Home-based systems aren’t recommended for people who are still active and frequently get out and about.

Mobile systems incorporate GPS, and help can be summoned from anywhere. If your loved one is away from home and gets lost, for example, monitors can pinpoint the location. They can even find people who are unable to talk.

Next, decide about adding a fall-detection feature. The device will sense it and automatically connect with a dispatcher if your loved one falls. The feature usually costs an additional $10 or $15 per month.

Medical experts who have tested fall-detection features on a number of models warn consumers that the technology still needs some work. The features sometimes fail to trigger a call to the monitoring center, but other times they’re overly sensitive and send a false alarm. Read consumer reviews written by people who have used the feature for a while before you add it.

Finally, read all the fine print. In addition to the cost of the equipment and the monthly fee, some systems charge an activation fee. Most contracts work just like cellphone contracts. Make sure that you’re not getting into something that’s difficult to get out of. Pay special attention to return and cancellation policies in case you change your mind.

What Features Do the Best Medical Alert Systems Have?

You don’t necessarily need every feature, but some are must-haves.

Look for a two-way voice feature that allows users who can’t use their hands to reach operators by voice. Most falls occur in bathrooms, so make sure that the panic button is waterproof. On home-based systems, the stationary unit should have a call button for visitors or for a user who has misplaced the alarm necklace.

Some devices have programmable medication reminders. They aren’t capable of specifying medications or dosages, but they send timely alerts.

With an activity-monitoring feature, users can press a button every now and then to assure a relative or neighbor that they’re doing well. At the interval you decide on, such as every 12 hours, the system will remind your loved one to press the button. If they don’t press it, the monitoring company will be notified.

A more high-tech monitor uses motion sensors to track movement in the home.

Verify that the base unit can function on batteries if there’s a power outage, and make sure that the system issues an alert when the batteries run low.

Top Medical Alert Systems

The four systems below are highly recommended by medical experts and consumers.

MobileHelp Duo

Price: $41.95 per month

MobileHelp’s products are endorsed by Consumer Reports, Consumer Advocate, and Senior List. The Better Business Bureau gave this high-quality, reliable system its top rating. Many medical alert companies use it. Features include the following:

  • Cellular-based system with in-home option
  • In-home range of 600 feet
  • 30-hour backup battery
  • GPS technology for location tracking
  • Real-time medical monitoring
  • Fall detection, medication reminders, activity tracking and vital signs monitoring
  • Waterproof pendant

Bay Alarm Medical

Price: From $19.95 per month

Bay Alarm Medical consistently gets high marks by reviewers. The company does make a mobile version, but the basic home-based system is highly affordable for consumers on a tight budget. Here’s a rundown of features:

  • Two-way communication with a high-output speaker and ultrasensitive microphone
  • In-home range of 1,000 feet
  • Can be used to answer calls on a landline
  • Wireless wall buttons
  • Portable
  • 32-hour backup battery
  • Free Vial of Life kit for providing medical history
  • Excellent customer service

Medical Guardian

Price: From $29.95 to $79.95 per month

This trusted company was named one of the best places to work in Philadelphia in 2015. The medical alert system is most admired for its generous in-home range of 1,300 feet. Its wide array of options and price levels makes it the most flexible and user-friendly system in the industry.

Depending on which plan you select, features include those below:

  • Combination Wi-Fi and cellular system
  • In-home motion sensors
  • Fall detection
  • Family app for instant alerts or updates to smartphone or email


Price: $30.00 per month

This is one of the smartest systems on the market. Families appreciate the regular progress reports and prompt alerts. QMedic also gets accolades for straightforward pricing whether the system is cellular or landline. Here are some great benefits:

  • All features are standard
  • Alerts issued for sleep or mobility anomalies
  • Alerts issued when user leaves the house or isn’t wearing the alarm device
  • Choice of waterproof wristband or pendant
  • Two-year battery life in pendants
  • In-home range of 1,000 feet

The right medical alert system will make caring for your loved one a lot less stressful.

Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock
Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock