What to look for when you compare medical alert systems?
Update 3/12/21: QMedic is now curating a comprehensive list of caregiver resources, with state-by-state guidance on where to go to compare medical alert systems, assistive devices & care needs. Learn more today!
At QMedic, we are committed to providing proactive landline and in-home cellular medical alert systems that compare with traditional systems in terms of simplicity and affordability.
When you compare medical alert systems prior to purchase, it is important for you to evaluate the features and benefits of each and prioritize them based upon how they match your and your loved one’s needs. And you should recognize that your needs may diverge from those of your loved one. It’s important that you consult your loved one because their receptivity, or lack thereof, will determine whether the medical alert system will be useful for them.
We have gathered volumes of feedback from users and customers—often the adult children of QMedic users—and would like to share the high-level insight with you to help you understand how other users and caregivers evaluate and compare medical alert systems.
Medical alert system users fall on a spectrum. Some are healthier with a few functional impairments, while others are extremely frail with 5-6-7 chronic conditions.
The following provides guidance on how to compare medical alert systems based on user needs:
Typically, people who fall in the low-need category are the least receptive to medical alert systems but are amenable to systems that are not restricted to the home. Thus, they prefer devices such as simple cell phones (e.g. GreatCall Jitterbug) and/or mobile medical alert systems that they can take outdoors.
When comparing mobile medical alert systems for low-need users, the person making the buying decision should evaluate the following criteria:
- Device accuracy in locating user outdoors. Some are much better than others. Keep in mind that poor weather and buildings can dramatically reduce location accuracy. Just think about what happens when you use GPS on your cell phone. Mobile medical alert systems will yield similar results.
- Whether the company actually produces the unit or resells the mobile medical alert system from another provider. Companies should be upfront about this with you. If they are not, do not work with them.
- Average response time between help button push and the call center representative connecting with you.
- Average end-to-end response time: activating the button, speaking with call center representative, determining an appropriate course of action, locating user’s exact outdoor coordinates, dispatching care services and the on-scene arrival of care services.
- Call quality and representative professionalism.
- Average battery life of the mobile medical alert systems:
- Many mobile systems suffer from poor battery life and require a regular recharge, making them difficult to comply with on an ongoing basis.
- Furthermore, every time that the user needs to recharge their device is a time when they will not be able to use it in case of an emergency.
For medium- and high-need users, we recommend in-home cellular or landline medical alert systems. When evaluating landline vs. cellular systems, there are a few things to compare:
- Does the user have a landline phone? If not, an in-home cellular medical alert system is recommended, as voice calls would run over the cellular network. Importantly, in this case, the base unit would not need to be tethered to a phone jack.
- Does the user have a strong preference for where the base unit is located in the home? For example, some users spend more of their time in the living room, while others may spend more time in the bedroom or kitchen. If the user would prefer a unit that can be placed anywhere in the home, we recommend a cellular medical alert system.
- How good is cellular coverage in the user’s area? There are two distinct cellular networks in the US.
- AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM networks
- Verizon, Sprint and U.S. Cellular use CDMA networks.
All you need to know is what the coverage of your cellular medical alert system would run on and evaluate network reception in your area. For QMedic’s cellular medical alert system, we use AT&T’s cellular network. You can evaluate AT&T network coverage in your area by visiting the AT&T coverage map.
If you go with a different medical alert system on the CDMA network, we recommend looking at a similar coverage map for the vendor’s telecommunication partner.
If cellular network coverage is bad in your area, we recommend selecting a landline medical alert system, which requires you to have an active landline phone number but also ensures 24/7 connectivity to call center services.
No matter which medical alert system you select—mobile or in-home, landline or cellular—make sure to compare these systems carefully by visiting a few vendors’ websites, speaking to sales and support representatives by live chat or phone, and evaluating the features and benefits that matter most to you and your family.