Medical Guardian is an established name in the medical alert industry for many reasons, not least of which is their push to innovate on the technological front. Their Freedom Guardian, a smartwatch that doubles as a mobile medical alert system, could potentially be the next evolution in the industry.
In this review, I’ll take a close look at the Freedom Guardian, discussing both its functions as a medical alert system and as a smartwatch. I’ll also be covering the buying process, and take a hands-on look at the device in action as well as the companion app. Let’s get into it.
What Is a Smartwatch?
In the same way that smartphones pack the power and functionality of a computer into a handheld cellular device, a smartwatch can do it all. The Freedom Guardian, in particular, takes this full feature set and throws in the functionality of a medical alert system.
As older adults become more comfortable with technology, the idea of multifunctioning devices that not only provide medical alert coverage but other day-to-day functions could see a rise in popularity. When you factor in that smartwatch sales have more than doubled over the last four years, the trends seem to be working in the Freedom Guardian’s favor.
The Pros and Cons of the Freedom Guardian
Before we go into deep detail about the product, I’ll take a broader view and highlight some of the things I liked most about the Freedom Guardian, and some of the features I wish the watch had.
Freedom Guardian Pros:
- Functions Beyond Just a Medical Alert: What separates the Freedom Guardian from other mobile medical alert systems is that it contains additional functions for older adults. The smartwatch offers medication alerts, weather forecasts, speech-to-text functions, and of course, keeping time, as well as a host of additional features.
- Keeps Loved Ones Informed With the App: The Freedom Guardian also comes with a companion app that allows loved ones to check on the user’s activity—including GPS location—to determine that everything is okay. The app also contains a messaging function that can allow a caregiver or family member to communicate directly with an older person right from the watch.
- Impressive Form Factor: Unlike many mobile medical alert systems that are worn as a pendant, the Freedom Guardian is a stylish watch that comes in two colors, features an adjustable silicone band, and is waterproof, so it can be worn in the shower.
- Two-Day Battery Life: While two days of battery may not seem like a long time compared to other longer-lasting mobile devices, for the number of functions the Freedom Guardian performs, I found it to be more than suitable.
- Older Eyes-Friendly Display: Even though this is a modern piece of technology, the Freedom Guardian features large icons and buttons that make it easy to use for older users who may have trouble reading small print.
Some of the Negatives:
- No Fall Detection: One of the features that I miss in the Freedom Guardian is that there is no option to add fall detection services to the device.
- Device Must Be Purchased: While all of the other offerings from Medical Guardian keep initial costs low by simply leasing their hardware to the customer, the Freedom Guardian must be purchased outright, which can make the initial investment in the device a bit higher than other mobile medical alert devices.
A Quick Note: The Freedom Guardian could interfere with a pacemaker. It’s always best to consult a physician to make sure any device is safe for you before use.
First Steps With the Freedom Guardian
Before investing in a device, I always like to take a look at the general customer experience with a company. Thankfully, Medical Guardian doesn’t disappoint, offering best-in-class service for its customers.
One of the most impressive things about Medical Guardian is their commitment to educating customers on their products. The company offers six different, unique medical alert systems, which can be overwhelming for some customers, especially if they’re shopping for a medical alert system for the first time. Medical Guardian offers a mix of buyer’s guides, frequently asked questions documents, as well as extensive and informative product pages to help customers find the system that works best for their needs.
If that wasn’t enough, the company also has multiple ways to reach customer service to answer any product questions. In addition to a live chat on their website and an easy-to-use contact form, Medical Guardian has multiple customer service telephone numbers for presale and post-sale support. In all of my experience dealing with Medical Guardian’s team, I’ve found them to be informative and friendly, which gave me the confidence I needed to make the right purchase for my needs.
Quick Tip: In addition to their customer support services presale, Medical Guardian also has the MyGuardian Customer Portal, which has a wealth of educational documents designed to help customers use their products after purchase.
Buying the Freedom Guardian
The first step when buying the Freedom Guardian was to select the plan that I wanted. There are four options, Monthly, Quarterly, Semi-Annual, or Annual plans available depending on how long you expect to need the device. As I mentioned before, there is a requirement to buy the watch outright on the initial purchase, which is $179.95. Medical Guardian doesn’t require long-term contracts for their services, which is a great benefit. Still, because of the high initial hardware price, I felt an annual contract was the most cost-effective.
The plan also includes a free lockbox, which is normally a $2.99 per month commitment. The lockbox can offer access to emergency response personnel if the Freedom Guardian is triggered at home.
Freedom Guardian Plan Pricing Breakdown
|Cost Per Pay Period||$44.95||$134.85||$269.70||$494.45|
|Cost Per Day||$1.45||$1.45||$1.45||$1.35|
|Cost at Checkout||$224.90||$314.80||$449.65||$674.40|
|Bonuses With Plan||N/A||N/A||-Free Shipping||-Free Shipping|
With my plan selected, I was given the option to select the device color (I went with white) and for some additional services that really round out the capabilities of the Freedom Guardian.
There are two levels of the Freedom Guardian, the base package, which includes 24/7 emergency monitoring, time and date, and weather forecast services, and the Freedom Guardian Pro, which adds the additional functions of text-to-speech services as well as reminders and alerts. The “Step Up” upgrade to Pro is an additional $5 per month, and well worth it, especially for older adults that need help with medication reminders and for those who want to use the watch as a communication tool with loved ones.
Additionally, the Freedom Guardian can be equipped with enhanced emergency notifications for $2.99 per month. This add-on service allows an older person’s Care Circle (loved ones and caregivers) to receive real-time text or email alerts in an emergency, keeping them in the loop on any potential situation.
As with all of Medical Guardian’s plans, there is also the option to add insurance to the device in the event that it’s damaged or malfunctioning. The protection plan is $6.99 per month and covers everything from power surges and manufacturer defects to unlimited battery replacements. When spending nearly $200 upfront on a device, getting this coverage is a smart investment.
While the basic unit is a perfectly functional and stylish medical alert system, these additional services, while admittedly a bit pricey, make the device a next-level piece of technology that offers functions well beyond the scope of a standard system.
Using the Freedom Guardian
Upon the first impression, it’s hard to not be struck by the great design of the Freedom Guardian. While it’s not as sleek as an Apple Watch, for example, in the pantheon of medical alert devices it really does stand out as a new evolution for the industry.
And with this modern design comes a simple device setup. Upon receiving the package, all I had to do was plug in the USB adapter to a wall outlet, plug in the adapter cable and plug the cable into the back of the watch. I let the watch charge for the recommended two hours to obtain a full charge before first use.
Turning the watch on was as simple as a short hold on the top side button, after which the device sprang to action. From the home screen, I was able to swipe through the screens which included the watch face, the weather forecast, the help/emergency call screen, and the calendar alerts and reminders screen.
Note: Calendar alerts and reminders are features limited to the Freedom Guardian Pro. Without this added service, you won’t be able to access it.
I performed an emergency call test which can be activated by holding the red side button for three seconds. Upon placing the emergency call, I was in touch with a Medical Guardian operator after about 30 seconds, which, while not the fastest response time in the industry, was quick enough. I talked to an operator directly through the device, and the audio was clear and easy to understand. As always, the Medical Guardian staff were friendly and responsive and were able to assess my situation (in this case just a test) and could dispatch emergency personnel if it were required.
While the functions of the Freedom Guardian watch itself are solid, the features available through the companion app are really what set the device apart.
Configuring and Using the Freedom Guardian App
The setup for the device isn’t much more than charging it and turning it on, but there are some additional configuration steps for the companion app. The app, available for both Apple and Android (as well as accessed through a web browser) is relatively easy to use, and primarily works to benefit loved ones and caregivers, giving them a window on the activity of the older adult using the watch.
I downloaded the Freedom Guardian app from the Google Play store and then went to Medical Guardian’s website to set up my account. Once my username and password were created, I was able to log in and access the features of the app.
If you don’t subscribe to the Freedom Guardian Pro service for the extra $5 per month, the app is pretty pared down. The app displays the device’s battery level as well as cellular connectivity status. Instead of offering live GPS tracking, the app uses an on-demand location model, which means it pings the device’s location, triangulated through GPS and Wi-Fi assisted location services. I was able to see the device’s location in multiple Google map views, as well as open the device’s location in the Google Maps app, which enabled me to get directions to that location.
Since I was paying for the Freedom Guardian Pro services, I was given full access to the app’s range of features. In addition to battery status, cellular connectivity, and location, I could send and receive messages and set up calendar activities for the device.
The messaging function on the Freedom Guardian is unique, in that the person (in most cases a loved one or caregiver) controls how the message is responded to. For example, I was able to choose between prompts of “Yes/No”, “OK”, or a request for a verbal recorded response. So in the app, I could select “Yes/No”, and enter text like, “Will you be joining for dinner?” The message is then sent to the watch with only those choices as a response, which takes a lot of the guesswork out of the communication and makes the device easier to use.
Additionally, I was able to ask for a verbal response, asking a question like, “How are you feeling today?” The message was received with a prompt to press a record button where the person wearing the watch could record a short response. That message then appeared in the app for simple playback. Overall the messaging function made it easy to check in on the device wearer for simple communication. It might not replace the need for long phone calls, but for quick check-ins, I found it more than adequate.
The calendar function makes it easy for loved ones and caregivers to help older adults remember key appointments, medications, and activity prompts. Anyone familiar with other calendar software should have no trouble using the system, and it provides great peace of mind knowing an older adult is getting the necessary information when they need it.
What’s great about the calendar function is how it’s able to be customized. For example, I was able to set up a medication reminder to be recurring. Within the app, I set a medication reminder for each day at 11:00 am, so before lunch the watch displayed a reminder to take medication. This calendar function also worked great for reminding the user to take a short walk and drink water.
Additionally, through the app, I was able to set up the Care Circle contacts of who would be alerted in an emergency, as well as view emergency call history. This level of control really sets the Freedom Guardian apart from other medical alert systems that rely much more heavily on the alert system company to control all of the back-end functions.
Wrapping Up With the Freedom Guardian
Remaining active as we get older can present a number of challenges and worries. The World Health Organization recommends that older adults get 150 minutes of activity each week; and a device like the Freedom Guardian can be a lifesaver as older people are out and about, living life to the fullest.
This smartwatch definitely represents a new era of medical alert systems. Studies are showing that older adults are becoming increasingly more comfortable with technology, so it’s not a surprise that medical alert systems are beginning to include robust features beyond a simple emergency button. With more and more Baby Boomers who have spent the last decade adapting to new technology as they enter their later years, the demand for multifunctional devices like the Freedom Guardian could see a boom.
Medical Guardian has been at the forefront of this technology for years, and the Freedom Guardian is the jewel in their crown. While there are some negatives to the device—mainly the cost to access all of the extensive features—the Freedom Guardian is a sleek, functional, and unique device perfect for any older adult looking to maintain an active lifestyle for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What cellular network does the Freedom Guardian use?
The Freedom Guardian works on the AT&T cellular network with a 3G SIM card. If you live in a more remote area, it’s important to double-check AT&T’s service coverage in your area to ensure device functionality.
- Is there a messaging limit on the device?
No. The device is set to handle an unlimited number of messages if you have the Freedom Guardian Pro plan for an additional $5.00 per month.
- Is the device waterproof?
The Freedom Guardian is water-resistant, which means it can be worn in a shower. However, long-term exposure to water or complete submersion could damage the device.
- Can fall detection be added?
Unfortunately, no. There is no additional fall detection available for the Freedom Guardian.
- Can the Freedom Guardian be worn with a pacemaker?
It’s always important to consult a physician before using any device, if you have a pacemaker. According to the user’s manual, “Freedom Guardian contains components and radios that emit electromagnetic fields. Both Freedom Guardian and the Freedom Guardian Magnetic Charging Cable contain magnets. These electromagnetic fields and magnets may interfere with pacemakers, defibrillators, or other medical devices. Maintain a safe distance of separation between your medical device and Freedom Guardian and the Freedom Guardian Magnetic Charging Cable.”