The moment of truth—what is the best medical alert system?

If you’re in the market for medical alert systems to support yourself or aging/disabled parents, it’s natural to want a simple answer to what seems like a simple question: what is the best medical alert system?

Drumroll, please…

Our verdict:  It depends.

Yes, we realize this can be an unsatisfying answer, but as veterans in the medical alert system industry, we believe you should weigh the benefits and tradeoffs of each medical alert system you review and match them to your family’s needs.   

As you do your research, you should consider features, benefits, pricing structure, contracts and customer service and evaluate the following topics/questions:

  • Does the company make its own medical alert systems?

At the outset of your research, you should know that the medical alert industry is typically divided into two categories: manufacturers and resellers/marketers. 

In fact, QMedic is one of a few select companies that produce and sell our own medical alert systems.

Why does QMedic manufacture and sell its own medical alert equipment?

Above all, making and selling our own equipment is the only way we can evaluate and measure the user experience, support caregivers’ end-to-end needs and ultimately vouch for QMedic’s superior quality in the market.  It’s important that we own the end-to-end experience so that we can adapt quickly to customer needs and concerns.   

In contrast, reselling and marketing someone else’s medical alert system is not of interest to us because we cannot test and adapt a resold system as rigorously as we can test and adapt our own.  If we were to resell other systems, we would not be able to run and certify the thousands of QA tests (e.g. drop tests, power tests, waterproofing tests, vibration tests, RF tests required by FCC/other regulatory agencies, etc.) that we do to ensure that QMedic provides reliable 24/7 coverage and support for our customers. 

By owning the hardware and software experience, QMedic is able to fully control and optimize the consumer experience, from adjusting volume controls and providing proactive activity and sleep tracking to setting up caregiver notifications and routing voice calls and alerts to the appropriate caregivers.

Lastly, because we have a deep knowledge of what our medical alert system does and does not do, QMedic favors a consultative approach to sales where we share benefits and tradeoffs of the system. This is one of our core values—our system is not a fit for everyone and we’re cool with that.

If we think you and your family are a fit for QMedic’s medical alert system, you can live chat or call us toll-free at 877.241.2244 (option 1) and we’ll have a transparent conversation about the benefits and tradeoffs of our in-home cellular and landline medical alert systems.   You can also review our FAQ, which we update regularly.

If you decide to go with another medical alert vendor, we’ll respect your decision knowing that we gave you the best information we could about our medical alert system. It’s understandable that you might choose another vendor and we’ll typically help point you towards other systems that may better match your needs.

Keep in mind that many of the competing companies that manufacture equipment choose to contract with a network of resellers vs. sell the equipment directly.

Many of these manufacturers make many different products: vacuum cleaners, thermostats, and garage door openers to name a few.   Some of these manufacturers produce quality products all around but more often than not, there is little innovation or attention paid to customer service or the customer experience.  These manufacturers leave the customer experience to their network of contracted resellers, who are often aggressive and unwieldy in pushing products and services. 

While some medical alert system resellers are better than others, all of them tend to think more about sales quotas and pushing products, even if those products don’t fit what you are looking for.  Don’t be surprised if you call them up and they immediately try to sign you up with flash discount—this should be a red flag that they are trying to lock you into a long-term commitment and take your money on the spot.

At QMedic, we won’t push you to buy because we’re motivated to make the customer experience—including the buying experience—as good as possible.  We want loyal customers and are investing in the long-term relationship.  We hope that’s what you are looking for as well when you go with us.

  • Bracelet/pendant device range:

Most in-home medical alert systems on the market feature range between 400-600 feet from the waterproof help bracelet/pendant to the base station.  In contrast, QMedic’s device range averages 1,000 feet and covers front and back yards in most 2-3 bedroom homes. 

Device range is important as systems with a shorter range may not activate if the user is farther away from the base station.

Regardless of which vendor you work with, make sure you test the system from many different points inside and outside the home to make sure the device range works to your satisfaction.

  • Proactive monitoring and alerts

QMedic is proud to offer proactive sleep, activity, and compliance monitoring without compromising simplicity for the user.  Founded by MIT scientists,  QMedic has developed patented methods for providing proactive activity monitoring and alerts that do not require recharge of the help button battery.  In other words, we can help caregivers identify when users deviate from daily routines without adding a burden for the user—this is important for keeping users and caregivers happy. 

Some caregivers find these proactive alerts helpful, while others just prefer the 24/7 routing to emergency call center services and dispatch.  QMedic is able to accommodate both types of caregiver needs in a single system. 

4) Mobile medical alert systems

As discussed, it’s important for us to disclose what QMedic does and does not do.  QMedic does NOT produce its own mobile outdoor medical alert systems. 

There are many providers and resellers for these types of outdoor systems, which healthier users can bring outdoors when they are unsupervised. 

One thing to keep in mind with these systems is that they require regular battery recharge and can often have trouble locating the exact coordinates of a user in case of an emergency.  This inaccuracy in location tracking is especially problematic on days when there is bad weather or cellular network congestion (these systems use cellular GSM or CDMA networks).

Just make sure that the sellers or resellers of mobile medical alert systems answer all of your questions about device battery life, device form factor, location accuracy and average emergency response time.

5) Fall detection systems

QMedic does NOT provide fall detection systems. 

We want to be very clear about our position on fall detection systems because we do NOT recommend any that are currently on market.  

With funding from the National Institutes of Health, QMedic’s team of MIT scientists has tested many fall detection systems that use the latest advances in technology.  The verdict?  All fall detection systems we’ve tested have fallen short of our QA standards.  We are currently working on a solution but believe far more R&D is required before bringing to market.

When evaluating other vendors that tout fall detection capabilities, be wary of the hard sell that does not provide evidence or use in fall detection studies.  The truth is that even the best fall detection systems are only likely to accurately detect falls 50-60% of the time. 

If you’re comfortable with those odds, go ahead and try them out.  We’re not comfortable with those odds.  

6) Customer service and contracts

QMedic doesn’t lock you into contracts.  You simply pay for what you want: monthly ($30) or annual ($300) plans with no activation fees or contracts.  We don’t offer refunds beyond 30 days of purchase.   If you’re unsure of whether our medical alert system is right for you, we offer a 30-day money back guarantee on both monthly and annual plans.  We suggest going with the monthly plan first if you’re unsure how long you and your family will use the medical alert system. 

Be very careful when evaluating vendors for contracts and customer service.  If another vendor is pushy and tries to lock you into something you’re not comfortable with, you should view this as a red flag and keep searching.  There are plenty of medical alert system vendors that are interested in getting you a system that fits your needs.  

To revisit our verdict on the best medical alert system, the truth is that it really does depend on your needs. 

If your loved one spends most of their time unsupervised and outdoors, QMedic is not the right system for you.  A mobile medical alert system—perhaps Freeus Belle or MobileHelp—is a better fit for the healthier user who spends more time outdoors.

Similarly, if you’re willing to roll the dice on various fall detection systems, QMedic is not the right system for you.  But we would suggest you be very careful when purchasing and testing any fall detection system.  Most of them will leave you disappointed because there is a high probability of false positives and negatives.

If you want unobtrusive proactive monitoring of activity, sleep and compliance to keep tabs on Mom or Dad’s routines, QMedic may be the best fit for you.  We provide all of the standard medical alert features in addition to these proactive features, all at an affordable price that matches or beats our more traditional competitors. 

No matter what you discover in your medical alert search, you should know that the best medical alert system companies will embrace a consultative approach to sales. 

Ultimately, this isn’t about forcing a solution down your throat.  It’s about meeting your family’s needs for safety and reliability and helping your loved one live independently wherever they are.