The Senior List is compensated when you click on the provider links listed on this page. This compensation does not impact our ratings or reviews. Click here to learn more about our editorial review process and click here to learn more about how we are compensated.
A medical alert watch combines the urgent-response features of a medical alert system with the discreet package of a wristwatch. Using a medical alert watch, you can press a button and quickly get in touch with help, whether it comes from emergency medical services or a loved one. Many medical alert watches also have extra features, including automatic fall detection, step counters, heart-rate monitors, and apps that allow you to communicate with caregivers.
Only the best medical alert watches, however, are fit to protect you or your loved ones.
The line between smartwatches and medical alert watches is becoming blurrier, but there is one primary difference: A medical alert watch will give you 24/7 access to an urgent-response call center. A smartwatch, on the other hand, can only contact 911. Although 911 operators can be helpful, they won’t have access to your name, location, or medical information.
Medical alert watches will relay your name, GPS location, medical information, and even emergency contacts to monitoring center agents, which allows them to provide a more effective response in the event of an emergency.
To learn more about how medical alert monitoring is different from calling 911, watch this quick video.
To create this list, we tested over a dozen medical alert watches. As we evaluated each one, here is what we looked for:
Ease of use: For a medical alert watch to be effective, it needs to have simple controls so people of all ages and experience levels can use it.
Battery life: Since medical alert watches are worn all day, we tested them to make sure they can last at least 16 hours.
Location tracking: One benefit of a medical alert watch is its ability to protect a person at home and on the go. We looked for watches with accurate GPS systems that allow monitoring agents to send help to the right place.
Extra features: In the event of an emergency, some medical alert watches allow users to speak directly to the medical alert monitoring center from their smartwatch. This is especially helpful if a phone is out of reach.
Cost: $199.95 equipment charge; $39.95 per month for monitoring
Medical Guardian has long been one of our favorite medical alert providers, and its latest medical alert watch, the MGMove, lives up to the company’s reputation. In addition to giving you access to Medical Guardian’s monitoring center, the MGMove can also track your steps, report on the weather, and communicate with your loved ones.
Through the MyGuardian app, the MGMove allows you to send and receive text messages without needing to type on a keyboard. The watch will read incoming messages out loud and translate spoken responses into text messages so replying to friends and family can be both quick and easy. The watch will also read aloud other helpful information, such as the date, time, and personalized alerts. The MyGuardian app also allows your loved ones to check on the watch’s location and battery life.
Pressing the button on the side of the watch and holding it down for three seconds sends an automatic request for emergency help. In our tests, the watch gave us quick access to help, with monitoring agents answering our calls in an average of eight seconds.
The one downside of the watch is its lack of fall detection; it’s the only device on this list not to support the feature. Its quick responses and caregiver features, however, still make it one of our favorites.
Cost: $159 equipment charge; $34.95 per month for monitoring
The SOS watch from Bay Alarm Medical combines the convenience of a smartwatch with the safety of a traditional medical alert device. The watch features a large, easy-to-read touchscreen display and a dedicated SOS button that can be pressed to quickly connect with a 24/7 monitoring center.
The Bay Alarm Medical monitoring center was very reliable during our tests, answering our test calls in an average of 16 seconds, which is definitely faster than average. Bay Alarm Medical’s monitoring agents were also able to accurately report our location.
In terms of extra features, the SOS Smartwatch is a bit more limited than the MGMove, since it lacks a caregiver app. It does, however, include automatic fall detection, allowing it to automatically call the monitoring center when it detects a fall.
Overall, Bay Alarm Medical’s SOS smartwatch is a slightly more budget-friendly option for people in need of a medical alert watch.
Cost: $159.95 for the watch; $29.95 per month for monitoring
Made by HandsFree Health, the WellBe Watch is an emergency alert smartwatch that provides emergency assistance around the clock and tracks users’ medical and health information.
The WellBe Watch provides 24/7 emergency assistance on a 4G network. When help is needed, the WellBe Watch turns into a communication tool that lets you speak to an emergency operator directly from your smartwatch. It also monitors heart rate and tracks the number of steps you take each day. Like most other medical smartwatches, the WellBe Watch works with a mobile app; theirs is called the WellBe Virtual Assistant, and it tracks medications and appointments and stores medical records.
Cost: $299 setup fee; $69.95 per month for monitoring
A newcomer in the world of medical alert systems, UnaliWear recently launched its Kanega Watch. With this watch, you won’t find caregiver apps, step counters, or messaging features. What you will find, however, is reliable monitoring and accurate fall detection.
In our tests, both at home and on the go, the Kanega Watch connected us to help in an average of 30 seconds. The GPS accurately conveyed our location, and fall detection worked with an 80 percent detection rate, putting it among the most accurate fall detection we’ve tested.
The Kanega Watch, however, is easily the most expensive watch on this list, costing nearly $70 per month. The price can be lowered to $60 per month if you pay for a year at once, but it’s still more costly than any other watch. If you don’t mind the higher costs, we’d wholeheartedly recommend the Kanega Watch.
Broadly speaking, a medical alert watch works the same as a medical alert bracelet. They both provide 24/7 access to urgent-response monitoring centers. There are, however, three primary differences between the devices.
First is discretion. Medical alert bracelets tend to be made of silicon, but medical alert watches have the form factor of a smartwatch. That makes them ideal for users who don’t want to be seen wearing a medical device.
Second is built-in GPS. Medical alert bracelets are usually made for use in the home, but medical alert watches have a built-in GPS that allows them to be taken outside. With the GPS, monitoring agents can trace your location and send help to the right place.
Third are the extra features. In addition to reporting the time — something medical alert bracelets can’t do — a medical alert watch may have any of the following features:
Apps for caregiver communication
Automatic fall detection
Ryan has years of experience researching and testing products that help people successfully age in place. After years of working for various publications such as Boston Magazine and The Believer, he has found his home at The Senior List, writing about all things related to caregiving and senior healthcare.