2021 Medical Alert System Guide

Read This Before You Buy
Medical Alert At Home No Landline

A medical alert system is a protective device that sends a signal to emergency personnel when attention is required. Medical alert systems, also known as personal emergency response systems (PERS), are most commonly worn by older or disabled individuals who may need to summon help following a fall or other life-threatening occurrence.

This guide will tell you all you need to know about medical alert systems, including the types of devices, how they work, and how much they cost.

How Do Medical Alert Systems Work?

In their most basic form, medical alert systems provide a direct line of communication between a user and monitoring-center personnel. Monitoring-center agents can then contact appropriate help, such as neighbors, loved ones, and emergency responders. These lifesaving devices come in many shapes and sizes, but they all share a few standard features.

The value of medical alert systems lies in their simplicity. More than half of older adults own smartphones — which could be used to accomplish a similar function — but medical alert systems provide a more streamlined and efficient way to obtain help. Typing out a phone number can be difficult during a health emergency, especially for people with manual dexterity issues. Medical alert systems, however, require only one press of a button.

MobileHelp Pendant
MobileHelp Pendant

Types of Medical Alert Systems

Despite a plethora of medical alert systems and manufacturers, we can break down medical alert systems into a few main categories.

One Call Alert In-Home Wireless Equipment
One Call Alert In-Home Wireless Equipment

Our Favorite Medical Alerts

It can be difficult to choose the right medical alert system. To start your search, check out our list to help you find the best medical alert system for your needs. Below are some of our favorite medical alert systems for all types of needs.

Pro Tip: Bay Alarm Medical recently introduced the first in-car medical alert system, which can track your location in addition to sending distress calls in the event of a crash.

Medical Alert Systems at a Glance

Type of System Protects Equipment Monthly Costs Ideal For
In-Home In and around the home Purchased or leased $19.95 to $49.95 Users who spend most of their time at home
Mobile Outside the home Purchased or leased $24.95 to $60 Active adults who often leave the house
Smartwatch Outside the home Purchased $24.95 to $44.95 Active adults who want a discreet medical alert
Bluetooth Outside the home Purchased N/A Smartphone owners who want to avoid monthly subscription charges
On-The-Go, Fall Detection, and Wearable Pendant
On-The-Go, Fall Detection, and Wearable Pendant from Bay Alarm Medical

Additional Features of Medical Alert Systems

No two medical alert systems work exactly the same, so it’s important to choose a system that has the additional features you need. Here are some to look out for:

The future of medical alert systems
The MobileHelp Smart

Hands-On Medical Alert Reviews

At The Senior List, our team performs thorough tests of each system, ensuring the quality of devices, their performance, and the overall customer service experience. If you have a particular company in mind, then I’d recommend looking at our detailed reviews.

MobileHelp Duo with Wall Button
MobileHelp Duo with Wall Button

How to Buy a Medical Alert System

Most medical alert systems can be purchased either over the phone or through a company’s website. Before purchasing a system, it’s important to know what goes into the price you’re charged.

FYI:Medicare won’t cover your medical alert system, but there are other ways, such as insurance and Medicaid, to offset some of the costs.

Purchasing vs. Leasing

In most cases, medical alert companies will not require you to purchase their equipment. They’ll instead charge you a monthly rate that includes the cost of both leasing the system and professional monitoring. When you lease equipment, you typically won’t have to worry about breakage or repairs since the company will simply send you new equipment if yours malfunctions or gets damaged.

Some companies, however, either require or allow you to purchase your system up front. That will bring down your monthly costs, but it also means a provider will repair or replace your equipment only for the duration of its warranty. Smartwatch and Bluetooth medical alert systems usually must be purchased.

Monthly Monitoring Charges

All medical alert systems require a monthly charge for professional monitoring. If you lease your equipment, both the equipment costs and monitoring charges will be lumped into one payment. Monitoring costs range anywhere from $19.95 to $60 per month, but discounts are often available for annual — as opposed to monthly — payments.

Some medical alert companies offer different tiers of monitoring. Lively Mobile Plus, for example, has three price levels. The cheapest option includes access only to the company’s monitoring center, while the most expensive plan adds fall detection, a nurse hotline, and a caregiver portal.

Bay Alarm Medical Equipment
Bay Alarm Medical Equipment

Medical Alert Systems and Pricing

Some companies are transparent about their products’ costs, but that’s not always the case. To save you time, we’ve compiled detailed pricing and device information on all the best medical alert providers.

Medical Guardian base station with alert buttons, mobile alert and medical alert smartwatch.
Medical Guardian System

9 Questions to Ask Before Purchasing a Medical Alert System

As you begin your search for the ideal medical alert system, keep in mind the following questions:

  1. Do you spend most of your time at home, or do you frequently find yourself out and about?
  2. Do you have a landline, or do you require a cellular system?
  3. Do you prefer wearing a help button as a pendant or as a wristband?
  4. How large is your home, and will a system’s range cover you in every room?
  5. Are you prone to falls, and will automatic fall detection come in handy?
  6. Do you live alone, or would a spouse or roommate require an additional help button?
  7. Do you need only emergency monitoring, or would you prefer a system that can also put you in contact with loved ones?
  8. Does the system automatically test itself to ensure proper function?
  9. If you don’t like your system, can you return it for a refund?

Pro Tip: Many providers will offer you discounted rates for signing an annual service agreement, but you should be wary of any medical alert provider that requires you to lock into a long-term contract.

Comparing Medical Alert Providers

With so many medical alert companies — not to mention the different systems offered by each one — it can be difficult to figure out the differences. That’s why we’ve done the work for you. Take a look at my Medical Alert Comparison page to find detailed comparisons of the best and most popular companies.

Written By
Amie Clark

Amie has been writing about senior care products and services for the last decade. She is particularly passionate about new technologies that help improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. Seeing her parents and grandparents age made Amie ask herself, “Would this be good enough for my loved ones?” In her spare time, Amie enjoys outdoor adventures and spontaneous road trips. Learn more about Amie here