In the past few years, medical alert devices have taken on multiple unique forms, from stylish smartwatch-style systems to more mobile-friendly cellular units. One of the companies that has been on the cutting edge of innovation is Rescue Alert, which was founded nearly 40 years ago and has been introducing new alert systems ever since.
Their bedrock offering is their MXD Medical Alert system. This device runs on a standard landline, but was also the first of its kind to be compatible with VoIP (voice over internet protocol), cable, and cell box telephone systems. The MXD is designed for older people to use in their homes and connects them to response operators in an emergency, 24/7. In this review, I’ll look at Rescue Alert as a company, break down the positives of the MXD as well as some of the negatives, go in-depth on device setup and use, and compare the unit to others on the market.
The Positives and Negatives of the Rescue Alert MXD System
Before I get more in-depth on the inner workings of the MXD, let’s first take a look at some of the pros and cons of the system.
Simple, Streamlined Alert System— The MXD is a great medical alert device because out of the box, it functions as an incredibly simple system; I was able to get the system set up and configured in a matter of minutes. The emergency call buttons were easy for me to identify and activate, and I found operator response times to be exceedingly quick. For someone who is unsure of their ability to understand the technology behind a medical alert system, the MXD is about as easy as it gets.
A Number of Customizable Integrations— Though the device is simple for the less tech-savvy, it’s also a great option for the more technologically literate; with a little bit of effort it can perform a number of custom integrations. The MXD can be configured to work with automatic medication dispensers, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and more, and will sound the alarm on the device when peripheral alarms are activated or when set medication intervals are triggered. The setup on these customizations isn’t the most intuitive, but it’s a great option to have for a caregiver willing to put in a little extra elbow grease to configure.
Small PHBs with an Option to Expand— The personal help button, or PHB, that comes with the MXD system is tiny and extremely lightweight, so it wasn’t uncomfortable or even noticeable for me to wear around my neck all day. The PHBs are also waterproof, which makes them ideal for an older person worried about slipping in the bath or shower. Additionally, the system is made to accommodate multiple PHBs (as many as 16), so if a caregiver or care facility is looking to monitor multiple residents on one system they can. With more than 800,000 people living in assisted living facilities, the ability to cover a number of residents with one unit has never been more important.
Multiple Ways to Connect— While the system has the functions and connectivity of a landline-based medical alert system, the MXD can also be plugged directly into a modem for VoIP, or through a DSL connection depending on your telephone service.
Some Less Impressive Things About the MXD:
No Direct Speaking Into the PHB— While the PHB is a simple, lightweight button, it is just a remote way to activate the base unit. Unfortunately, there isn’t a means for two-way communication within the PHB so the older person will still need to be within earshot of the base unit.
Fall Detection Isn’t an Easy Add— Rescue Alert does have a fall detection system known as the myActive Alert, which can be added to the MXD system for $10 per month. The problem is that you have to call Rescue Alert to add it to your system. Of course, this is a minor inconvenience, but with how convenient the rest of the buying process is it stands out as a negative to me.
First Steps with the MXD System
As with purchasing any medical alert system, my first step is deciding which one product is right for me, which plan makes the most sense for my budget, and which add-ons I may need to enhance my system.
The Rescue Alert Buying Process
Navigating the Rescue Alert website is a relatively simple process. It’s great to have such a streamlined experience, but in reality, they only offer one medical alert system: the MXD. Other companies in the field like Medical Guardian, for example, offer five separate systems, all with different plans and functions. As a result of so many options, Medical Guardian has a variety of educational materials and buying guides to help a customer make an informed decision.
In the past, Rescue Alert offered multiple system options as well, including a cellular-connected model for the home and a mobile medical alert system with GPS capabilities which is currently listed as out of stock. When I visited the site this time around, however, the main focus is the MXD system. As I landed on the homepage, the MXD and its help button were the only products displayed, and in their products section, the MXD system was the only one available for purchase, along with a number of accessories.
Rescue Alert doesn’t offer a ton of informational materials on their website, but the product information on the MXD page was robust enough for me to make an educated purchase. Beyond just what’s on the website, I was impressed with Rescue Alert’s multiple methods of contact. The website has multiple phone numbers to reach their team as well as an email address, street address, and fax number; I was also able to request more information and a brochure through the site, which was another intuitive way to get more background on the product.
Selecting the Right Plan for the MXD
When I went through the checkout process for the MXD, I found that there were five different pricing options depending on the length of commitment I was willing to make to the service. Whenever someone decides to purchase a medical alert system, oftentimes they’re not actually purchasing the hardware. Instead, they’re renting the equipment and paying monthly for the service, and then they’re required to return the device when they’re finished using it. As a result, if there is damage to the device, they’re required to pay out-of-pocket expenses to cover the hardware. Some companies have insurance plans to help cover these damage costs.
Rescue Alert doesn’t offer protection plans to help defray the costs of damaging equipment, but they do offer a plan where a customer would be able to buy the hardware outright, which I found unique, and a great option for someone planning to have the device for a long period of time. Because I wasn’t anticipating using the device for more than a few months, and I didn’t expect any wear-and-tear damages to the unit, I opted for the quarterly plan, which is their “preferred plan”; it seemed like the best balance of price while also not being too long of a commitment.
The plans for the MXD all include the base station, the personal help button, and an additional free gift, which can be another PHB or a lockbox which would be used to house keys on a front door for emergency personnel or a caregiver to gain access to the home in an emergency. The plans are all based on monthly billing prices, but the longer the commitment, the lower the monthly cost is. Let’s take a look at the plans.
Purchase Equipment- Monthly
Total Amount Billed
Savings in Billing Period
When comparing a medical alert system to an average cell phone plan now averaging about $100 per month, a $29.95 investment each month doesn’t seem like a huge expenditure. I was impressed that Rescue Alert offered multiple plans for different budgets and rewarded long-term commitments to the company with lower monthly costs.
In addition to the MXD unit and all that’s included in the basic package, Rescue Alert offers a few different add-on products that I could choose from to help bolster my system. Let’s take a look at their additional offerings.
Personal Help Buttons— PHBs are the peripheral buttons used to activate the system. As I mentioned earlier, the MXD has the ability to accommodate as many as 16 PHBs, which makes them a great addition for a caregiver looking to outfit an assisted living facility or just for an older couple both looking to use the system.
Lock-Box— Lockboxes can be purchased with a system to provide a secure place to keep keys on a front door. The Rescue Alert dispatchers can give caregivers or emergency personnel the lockbox code in an emergency where an older person is incapacitated, and they can use the keys to enter the home. Lockboxes are a nice way to help keep a home locked and secure without compromising a response team’s ability to reach someone vulnerable in an emergency.
Wall Button— Rescue Alert has a wall button add-on which is a large, single-function device that can be used to activate the system. Wall buttons can be placed in high-risk areas to give a little extra piece of mind to an older person who may want multiple ways to trigger an emergency response. They have a range of 600 feet, which is ample enough to cover most homes.
myActive Alert— The myActive Alert is Rescue Alert’s fall detection tool. For an additional monthly charge, this device can detect the presence of a fall and activate the system without needing to press the call button. The pendant is water-resistant and has a range of up to 1,000 feet, which is an upgrade to the standard PHB. I would recommend adding the myActive Alert to any MXD system; it’s just a little extra assurance that help will be dispatched even if an older person isn’t able to activate the PHB.
DSL Filter— A DSL filter is a small adapter that you can use to plug your MXD into your phone line if you have a DSL telephone connection.
Note: The myActive Alert and additional PHBs aren’t an available add-on when you purchase your system online, so if you’re looking for fall detection or multiple buttons, you have to call the company directly.
myActive Alert (Fall Detection)
Setting Up and Using the System
When I received the MXD system, I was impressed with how easy the setup was. Let’s go through the unboxing and configuration process and then go into the day-to-day use of the system.
Unboxing and Setup
In the box for the MXD was the base unit, the personal help button pendant, the additional PHB bracelet that I selected with my purchase, power and phone cables, and a user’s manual. Visually, the base unit was clearly designed and would be a great device for any older person who has trouble with technology or vision issues. The base unit has a large blue help button on the top of the device and nothing else, so there isn’t any risk of pressing the wrong button in an emergency.
Additionally, the PHB was one of the smallest emergency buttons I’ve encountered; it’s incredibly lightweight and could be easily worn throughout the day without causing me any discomfort.
Setting up the system was about as simple as it gets with medical alert systems. The first step was plugging in the phone cable to the back of the device and the wall. Next, I plugged the power cord into the base unit and a wall outlet. Once the device was plugged in, it sprang to action and announced that the system was ready. The manual instructed me to place a test call, so I pressed the PHB and the unit activated. I spoke to a friendly operator and informed them that I was just testing the unit. I then performed a distance test, stepping as far away from the device as I could to see how well the two-way communication worked, which let me know the distance the older person using the device could be and still be heard. I found through testing that the two-way communication was clear from the next room, about 20 feet away, but beyond that was unclear to the operator.
A Quick Note: The back of the device features an additional phone jack so you can run your phone through the base unit without needing to take up two phone wall jacks.
Daily Use with the MXD
One of the things I liked most about the MXD was how low-maintenance the system itself was. Many comparable medical alert systems require some form of upkeep, usually a monthly checkup where the user has to perform a test call to ensure the system is functioning properly. Rescue Alert’s devices have internal mechanisms to perform self-diagnostics on the telephone connection, base unit battery, and PHB battery. If the monitoring center reports an ongoing issue with the system, they can contact the customer to resolve issues or send replacement devices or a technician to repair the hardware.
The strength of the MXD is that it was there when I needed it most; I was paying for peace of mind and reliability. When I did press the emergency call button as a test, the monitoring center team members were friendly and the response time was lightning fast. After activating the PHB I was in touch with the response center in a matter of seconds. They were able to talk to me and assess my situation and determine whether or not I needed emergency personnel called. Overall, the device performed admirably with clear two-way communication.
Final Thoughts on the Rescue Alert MXD System
For a landline-based medical alert system, the Rescue Alert MXD is a triumph of simplicity and great hardware. The device is fast, with an impressive communication range, and its internal diagnostic reading takes the guesswork out of maintaining the device. The PHBs are barely there in how lightweight they are, which makes them ideal for all-day wear.
As a company, Rescue Alert provides the kind of 24/7 dispatch support you need from a medical alert system. And, with multiple plan options, there are price points available for any type of customer commitment level. Additional products were easy to add, and made it possible to customize the system as I needed. When all was said and done, the Rescue Alert MXD was the kind of standard I’d expect from an industry innovator, and a perfect device for a little extra peace of mind in the home.
The personal help button cannot perform fall detection. If you’re looking for fall detection, you have to order the myActive Alert button, which is a separate pendant equipped with fall detection capabilities. However, you can only buy this button by calling the company directly as opposed to buying it from their website.
Unfortunately not. While Rescue Alert did offer cellular and GPS-capable models in the past, their current offering is landline only.
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