Expert Interview Series: Natallia Tsahelnik On Choosing The Right Medical Alert System

Medical alert system

Natallia Tsahelnik is a project manager at senior care and health portal and

The infamous “I've fallen and I can't get up!” LifeCall commercial first aired way back in 1989. How much has the medical alert system industry changed in the last 30 years, and what are some of the reasons for these developments?

30 years ago technological possibilities were pretty limited, compared to what we had five years ago; and they are even more different from what we have now. The options for personal response systems were pretty much on the same level as they were for mobile phones at that time. We all know how much cell phones have changed and how much we depend on them now; how much we depend on technology in general these days. Besides, with “being online” as a necessity and the Internet of things becoming a reality there is no surprise that medical alert systems industry also makes a great deal of effort to stay relevant.

One of the reasons medical alert systems have been becoming more popular is not having on-site care 24/7. With increasing numbers of people choosing to ‘age in place', why will medical alert systems become increasingly more important, as time goes on?

It is simple – if there is a chance for a person to stay independent for a longer period, that’s what they will choose. And if there is a technology that can make it easier for both seniors and their relatives, it will always be in demand. In terms of medical and healthcare progress, the rise in medical alert systems’ popularity is primarily explained by this chance for independence; and it is also due to the fact that medical assistance can be accessed much faster than it was possible a decade ago — and there is no need to have it right at home all the time (except for the cases when it is downright necessary).

One of the main functions of medical alert systems is to call for help with the push of a button. What are some situations where someone might not be able to dial 911 themselves? And what are some things that might be avoided by contacting emergency services with the push of a button?

The major one is falls, for sure. Especially in the bathroom area, or any other place with no phone access.  Calling an emergency can be tricky for many seniors simply because you have to actually dial 911, and you have to be able to move, to see the dials and to hear the operator; and sometimes all this is simply out of bounds. Pushing a button makes everything so much simpler. You also save time and that’s priceless.

Top10MedAlertSystems features a comparison chart, contrasting the features of the most popular medical alert systems. To start, what are some of the most common characteristics of all medical alert systems. Also, what criteria do you use to judge those features?

Monitoring range and battery life of a device can be named as basic features that should be primarily paid attention to in a medical alert system for a simple reason — they show the capability of a device and it’s effectiveness regarding the task it is supposed to fulfill. The wider the monitoring range, the more freedom of movement it allows. The longer the battery life, the more reliable the device is.

As for Top10MedAlertSystems reviews, we do not take any special criteria, rather, we compare the offers that companies have and suggest that customers make their own informed decision.

Along those lines, what ARE the most popular medical alert systems right now? Why are they so popular, in your experience?

Popularity is a pretty relevant thing, there are companies that have been in the industry for ages and can boast having a name and experience (and good advertising); and there are new-comers that may, however, offer a more available option when it comes to price.

Medical alert systems reviews found online may not represent an entirely truthful picture simply because they are often backed up by affiliated programs. And that is neither good or bad as long as a customer is able to critically assess the information.

On our main page you can see the rating of ten companies that we would recommend to those in search of a reliable system; and we also have a list of more reviews that we constantly update. Though the first ten go in a particular order, the distribution doesn’t mean to serve as anything but a source of information.

Fall detection is a popular option for a lot of medical alert systems. What are some medical alert systems that offer fall detection that are particularly popular, and why?

As we age, we become less flexible, that’s the truth. For many seniors moving around the house becomes a challenge with time, that’s why fall-related injuries are so common in senior hospital admissions.

That’s exactly where a medical alert system might really come in handy, in general, and its fall-detection feature in particular. While pushing a button is one good thing when you fall (and hopefully, there is nothing really critical this time), it’s quite different when a person suffers from hypertension (or any other condition that should be monitored all the time) and in case of a fall is highly unlikely to do anything at all.

Unfortunately, not all companies offer such a feature. And among those who do, most have it only as an option for extra money. In our chart only Alert1 and Philips Lifeline have automatic fall detection feature included into the initial package.

Medical monitoring is another popular feature of a lot of medical alert systems. What are some common health problems that medical monitoring watches out for? What are some popular medical alert systems that offer medical monitoring?

We mostly focus on PERSs and most of the companies that we’ve reviewed have few medical and wellness tracking features. However, some of the companies do have a broader choice of options and that’s the next step, I guess, in this world of progress. Thus, activity sensors measuring daily living patterns and medical indications, also medication reminders, etc., are present in some systems, but those are the minority in our reviews.

In general, medical monitoring is a great idea, especially for people with such conditions like heart problems or diabetes, or any condition that can actually affect a person’s balance (and make them more prone to falls).

Some medical alert systems offer daily check-in services, remotely. How could this help give someone's loved ones peace of mind, if they're living on their own?

Check-in service is the one that sends requests to a system on a regular basis and checks whether the system is working and okay, or unresponsive and something is wrong. Most companies offer it as an option for an additional fee and it is a good thing to have, so you don’t need to worry for no reason. But mostly it will be most useful to those who can’t check on their senior relatives daily themselves (because they travel a lot, or live abroad, or have any other reason that makes it impossible to call regularly).

There have been countless innovations in the realm of wearable technology, generally, and a lot of medical alert systems are incorporating a lot of these innovations – monitoring health, counting footsteps, etc. With that in mind, why might it be a good idea for senior's to get a medical alert device, instead, if they're thinking of investing in a FitBit or something similar?

It’s great that medical alert companies include more features into their products, it’s an indication of a more complex but also a more universal product coming. Still, a medical alert system is designed for a particular purpose and a specific age group.

Concerning wearable tracking devices, getting one is a good idea, especially for an active senior. However, it might be way too complex for an older person to deal with.

All in all, it is unreasonable to choose between the two. Instead, using both can be an advantage – in terms of safety and wellness. The former guarantees you the connection to a professional team of operators and 24/7 response, the latter is brilliant for making sure your health is under control.

What are the most important questions to ask one's self if you're getting a medical alert system for the first time? How can someone decide which medical alert system is the best fit for their needs?

Most common reasons why people decide to get a medical alert system for themselves or their relatives are health issues coupled with the situation of living alone and increased need of assistance at home.  Thus, while choosing a system, it makes sense to consider the following points:

  • whether a medical alert system should serve an elderly person with some specific health issues;
  • what monitoring range it should cover;
  • what kind of a portable device is preferable;
  • whether additional options are needed;
  • what price offers are acceptable.

While choosing a medical alert system it is hard to talk about “the best”. Rather, one should go alone the lines of what is expected from a PERS and which one of the existing offers can cope with the task best.

Looking for more information on choosing the right medical system? Check out our Medical alert systems today!

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