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Medical Alert Systems with Bluetooth

Medical alert systems have become a fact of life for many seniors. Any stigma attached to wearing a pendant or wrist button is fading fast. This change is only natural, considering the surging number of those 65+ throughout the world, longer lifespans, and the determination of seniors to enjoy as much independence as possible.

Any medication, technology, or other tool that can ensure the wearer’s safety, freedom, and privacy, simultaneously providing caregivers peace of mind, should be welcome.

One of the significant advances for medical alert systems is wireless Bluetooth. This energy-efficient and low-cost advance enhances the ability of the wearer to communicate clearly with loved ones and to maintain a higher quality of life overall. It also allows the senior to roam freely in the home unconstrained by the length of an electrical cord or cable.

What Is A Medical Alert System?

Fundamentally, medical alert systems are designed for anyone who has health issues that could require emergency attention. These systems come in a range of styles and prices, some offering a wide range of features. The most appropriate type of system will depend on the health issues and mobility level of the senior using it.

The chief goal of a medical alert system is to ensure the senior’s safety while keeping caregivers informed of the senior’s condition and – if the right equipment is used – a physical location.

The simplest med alert systems consist of a base unit connected to a landline, with the user wearing a panic button. This button is usually worn as a necklace, wristlet, smartwatch or suspended from the wearer’s belt. When the senior needs help, they push the button on the base unit or on their pendent, and the phone numbers programmed into the base unit (caregivers’ numbers, 911, etc.) are dialed by the base unit.

What is Bluetooth?

Many are familiar with the idea of Bluetooth and cell phones; Bluetooth enables the hands-free use of cell phones when driving. The latest iteration, Bluetooth 5.0, is even more energy-efficient, though it must be paired with newer devices that accommodate it or the benefits won’t be apparent.

Bluetooth works especially well for medical alert systems that are on 24/7. Once the devices have “paired” (bonded) with each other, as long as they are within range of each other and are turned on, they stay paired. If the panic button is pressed, the Bluetooth-enabled alert system will transmit this information, calling for help.

Bluetooth, a free wireless technology developed in the mid-1990s, is a means of connecting up to seven devices or apps to work together for voice or data transfer. Further, these devices (whether a medical alert system, cell phone, printer, hearing aids, or headphones/earbuds, e.g.) can now function without messy electrical cords.

Besides allowing greater mobility around the home, this advance leads to a decluttered living space, substantially decreasing the likelihood of a fall.

Like any other technology, there are more pros and cons.

Pros and Cons of Bluetooth Medical Alert Systems

Pros:

  • Bluetooth has become so common that prices have dropped dramatically; cost is no reason to avoid using this technology.
  • These devices are wire-free, decluttering living space and promoting freedom of mobility, both inside and outside the home.
  • The added speed of a Bluetooth connection and ease in sharing vital health information could save a life.
  • Unlike WiFi, there is no monthly fee for using Bluetooth. Apps are free.
  • Walls are not as much of an impediment for Bluetooth as for WiFi. However, metal dividers or electronics like a microwave, however, will block Bluetooth signals.
  • The frequency range at which Bluetooth operates is less subject to interference than that of WiFi, resulting in more reliable, clearer communication.
  • Bluetooth, using very little energy, allows the transmission of data between devices but does not require a modem or router.
  • Bluetooth devices and apps are easy to set up.
  • A smartphone can be turned into a panic button with the download of a free Bluetooth app such as the energy-efficient and easy to use React Mobile App, among others.
  • Conveniently, all Bluetooth-enabled devices and apps are now designed to be compatible with each other.
  • It’s easy to add features to a Bluetooth-enabled medical alert system: GPS, fall detection, fitness tracking, medication reminders, home security monitoring, and more.

Cons:

  • Though there are no wires, note that Bluetooth 4.2 (the iteration preceding the newest 5.0) can only connect with a device that is, at most, 200 feet away. 5.0 can cover up to 800 feet. This means that the user must pair Bluetooth with a smartphone or a tablet, and always have that device with them.
  • Keeping the smartphone or tablet properly charged may be a problem for some seniors.
  • Though more expensive, WiFi does have a broader range (covers more distance) than Bluetooth.
  • It is not recommended to use Bluetooth when transmitting financial or other highly sensitive data.

Bluetooth vs Cellular Medical Alert Systems

Though some medical alert companies still tout the superiority of a landline for clearer communication, the number of landlines is decreasing daily. Cellular medical alert systems continue to improve on transmission quality while also being useful both in the home and on the road. Additionally, cellular systems are not subject to power outages or the other types of damage powerlines can experience.

While home-bound seniors could find a landline alert system perfectly acceptable, more mobile seniors may not. Since a cellular system allows the wearer to travel, many medical alerts also include a GPS option. Caregivers could be grateful for this feature, especially with loved ones who have dementia or are prone to episodes or falls. The GPS feature can also be used to help locate a misplaced medical alert button as well.

Bluetooth, rather like the landline, has its own distance limitations. In other words, for Bluetooth 5.0 to be effective beyond its maximum of 800 feet from its base unit (only 200 feet for Bluetooth 4.2), the user must stay close to a phone or other connected device. By contrast, a cellular system does not need any other devices and will work wherever cellular coverage exists.

Another advantage to cellular medical alert systems is that they don’t need a stationary base unit and can be recharged anywhere the user happens to be, even far from home.

Bottom Line

For the right senior, Bluetooth technology when paired with a medical alert system can provide a cost-effective boost to their security.

Bluetooth, though, unlike a cellular medical alert system, has its limitations. Primarily is that the senior must always be conscious of how far they are from the base unit and have either a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone or a tablet with them.

Whatever type of medical alert system is purchased, caregivers need to be sure the user is properly instructed in how it operates and confident regarding its use. The bottom line is that it is most important to connect a user with a medical alert device that works for them.

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