Medical alerts are devices that allow users to contact emergency services in the event of a fall or other emergency. When activated, the alert immediately notifies a 24/7 monitoring company which dispatches emergency responders if necessary. Though usually associated with the elderly, they can be extremely useful to anyone with serious medical concerns, no matter their age.

Medical alerts, also known as Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS), are especially useful for people who are at risk of falling, or suffering from a stroke or heart attack. Advances in technology, such as mobile GPS tracking, not only help independent seniors live active lives but also allow parents to track their children, as well as give people with disabilities or diseases the peace of mind that comes with knowing that help is only the push of a button away.

When selecting a medical alert system, be aware that each company and product offers different benefits. For instance, a larger home might benefit from an alert with a cellular connection, as opposed to a landline with a smaller range. Depending on the user’s individual needs, specific features could be needed, such as voice activation. In the event of an emergency, it’s important to ensure that the company not only offers 24/7 monitoring, but redundant response centers, in case one is not reachable.

Before finally deciding on a medical alert plan, be sure to look at the fine print. Do batteries need to be replaced frequently? Will the company regularly test the equipment? Is the user responsible for damage incurred by everyday use? If these questions are asked and addressed up front, then there won’t be surprises down the line.


Top 10 Companies

#1
Our Partner
9.6 / 10
  • Black Friday Sale Has Started! $19.95/ Month. No Long-Term Contract or Hidden Fees.
  • Most Popular Choice - A+ Rating with BBB
  • Special pricing for AARP and USAA members
  • 30 Day Risk-Free Trial
  • FREE Equipment, Activation, and Gift!
  • 1,000 ft. Range, Waterproof Pendant & 36-hr Battery Life.
  • Landline, Cellular, and GPS with Automatic Fall Detection
  • USA-based and UL Certified 24/7 Monitoring Centers
#2
Our Partner
9.3 / 10
  • A+ Rating with the BBB
  • 1,300 ft. button range & 72 hour Backup Battery 
  • Mobile (with GPS) & Fall Detection systems available
  • UL and CSAA Five Diamond Certified Monitoring Centers
  • No long-term Contracts
  • FREE Equipment, Activation, and Shipping!
  • Price Lock Guarantee & Lifetime Warranty on Equipment
#3
Our Partner
9.1 / 10
  • Special pricing for AARP and USAA members
  • 24/7 monitoring - GPS location services - fall detection
  • Trusted by over 6,000,000
  • Unlimited range with 3G cellular option
  • Website doesn't show prices, just call for a quote!
#4
Our Partner
9.0 / 10
  • FREE - Shipping of Equipment + Lockbox + 1 Month of Service
  • 24/7 Response & Support Monitoring
  • Goes anywhere in the US
  • A+ BBB Rating
  • Popular for active seniors
  • No Long-Term Contracts or Commitments
  • Easy-to-use and lightweight devices
  • Fall Detection Available on Every System
  • Free Equipment With No Set-Up, Activation, or Cancellation Fees
#5
Our Partner
8.9 / 10
  • UL Listed and CSAA Five Diamond Certified monitoring center
  • 30 Day Money Back Guarantee for ALL Customers
  • Monitoring center located in the US (no outsourcing)
  • In business since 1977
  • Ability to dispatch emergency and non-emergency responders
  • Free, quick and easy installation (plug and play)
  • No landline required
  • A+ Rating with BBB
#6
Our Partner
8.7 / 10
  • From $29.95/mo with no equipment fees
  • 30 Day Risk Free Trial
  • Industry-leading hardware
  • No Contract & Lifetime Warranty
  • Offers Automatic Fall Detection Button
#7
Our Partner
8.6 / 10
  • Starts as Low as $19.99/mo
  • Unlimited Range with GPS Technology
  • Mobile, Waterproof, 1-button Medical Alert
  • Free shipping, No landline required
  • No Contracts or Installation Fees
  • Fall Detection and Device Replacement
  • Use Promo Code: GCJB010 after you input your credit card at the very end for 10% off!
#8
Our Partner
8.5 / 10
  • No equipment purchases
  • No long term contract, cancel anytime
  • Lifetime price guarantee
  • 24/7 monitoring services
  • 30 day free trial
  • Fall detection, GPS and 2 way cellular voice communication
#9
Our Partner
8.0 / 10
  • Prices starting at $24.95 per month
  • 480 ft. range standard, extendable to 1,500ft
  • A+ Rating with the BBB
  • Lifetime price & equipment guarantee. Spouses Free
  • Full product suite, including caregiver tools
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Waterproof pendants or wristbands
  • No time commitment
  • No activation and no equipment fees
#10
Our Partner
7.6 / 10
  • $39.95-$69.95 per month (based on plan length)
  • No long-term contracts, cancel anytime
  • Home, fall detection, and GPS mobile systems available
  • Free unlimited talk time and button pushes
  • UL and CSAA Five Diamond Certified Monitoring Centers
  • 2- way voice communication in water resistant pendants
  • BBB Accreditation
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How We Compare Medical Alerts

Equipment

30%

Standard medical alert systems are typically comprised of two pieces of equipment, a base unit and an emergency help button; unless it's a mobile GPS system that users can take wherever they go. The base unit is the device that receives the call for help when the emergency help button is pressed and passes the alert on to the monitoring station. All of the companies in our top ten list offer emergency buttons and 2-Way Voice Communication technology built into all of their base unit systems, including home and mobile options. It’s important to note that the help button must be within range of the base unit for the help signal to be received. Base units for home systems have to be connected to an electrical outlet, but come with a backup battery as a provision against power outages. Mobile medical alert devices also need to be recharged and include a docking station for that purpose. We suggest purchasing a system with at least 24 hours of battery life and a backup battery with 24 hours of charge or more.

Help buttons can be built into the base unit or mounted on walls, but may also come as separate wearable devices in the form of a necklace or a bracelet. Some companies offer alternative accessories, allowing users to choose help button clip-ons or key chains. Medical alert companies understand the importance of wearing the help button at all times, especially in the shower or tub where most accidents happen, which is why many providers only offer water-resistant or waterproof devices. 

If you are shopping for a loved one, it is important to put yourself in their shoes. There is a lot to think about, so we’ve dedicated an article to help you select the system that will work with your loved one's needs.

System Types

Most medical alert systems are very similar, consisting of a base unit installed in the home, and a help button. Alert buttons in such systems need to be in range of the base unit in order communicate with the company's monitoring center via cellular or traditional landline connection. Some companies also offer a third option, typically consisting of a mobile, GPS-enabled device that does not require a base unit.

Cellular Provider Options

When choosing a medical alert system that works via cellular connection, it's important to know which carrier network the medical alert company uses, as some may not have good reception in your area.

Help Button Option

Help buttons are usually the wearable component in most medical alert systems and may come in the form of a pendant, necklace, bracelet or clip-on. When pressed, the help button sends a signal to its base unit, which then communicates with the monitoring center. However, some companies also offer help buttons that communicate directly with the call center via cellular, providing increased mobility for active users.

Help Button Range

For the alert signal to be transmitted between devices, help buttons must be within range of their base units. The most common range specification is between 200-600 feet, but some companies offer products with a range of up to 1,500 ft. Since companies usually measure this range in "open air" conditions, it's important that you test the communication between the help button and the base unit in the actual conditions of your home to determine the best area for the base unit.

Base Station Backup Battery

Each base station has particular specifications, yet most feature at least 30 hours of backup battery life, which is sufficient charge to last through a common power outage.

Mobile/GPS Battery Life

Once out of the base charger, mobile medical alert devices commonly feature 24 hours of battery life. That is usually enough charge for most people, but users must remember to recharge the device consistently.

Key Features

Some key features to evaluate when considering different medical alert companies include:

  • Two-way communication: all medical alert companies provide devices that can communicate directly with a monitoring center via their base unit, yet some also offer all-in-one systems, with integrated, two-way voice communication technology
  • Waterproof: most modern medical alert buttons are waterproof, especially since studies have shown that the most common location for falls inside the home is the bathroom
  • Automatic fall detection: some medical alert devices incorporate fall detection technology, which analyzes the user's movements through sensors built into the device
  • Multiple help buttons: some systems have base stations that can monitor more than one device, which can be especially useful in households with multiple seniors.

Monitoring

25%

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Monitoring is one of the most important factors in a medical alert system, whether it be done professionally by a monitoring center, or consists simply of the base unit making the emergency calls itself. In the case of the former option, your monthly payments ensure that you or your loved one has a service that quickly responds in case of an emergency, as knowing who is going to be there in a time of need is essential.

Monitoring Options

Most medical alert systems offer professional, 24/7 monitoring for a monthly fee. Whenever the help button is pressed, it establishes a call between the user and the monitoring center, and depending on the situation, the agent can either notify caregivers or dispatch emergency personnel. Professional monitoring helps ensure that there are less false alarms and 911calls. Other companies are non-monitored. In this case, when the base system is activated, it calls 911 directly and/or the user's emergency contacts. This type of monitoring doesn't have a monthly subscription fee, and customers usually only pay for the purchase of the equipment itself.

Services

The most comprehensive professionally monitored systems should offer the following services as part of their monthly subscription service:

  • Emergency dispatch: the monitoring center should be able to dispatch emergency personnel (fire department, police, medical, etc)
  • Non-emergency dispatch: the call agent should be able to contact caregivers and emergency contact numbers, as needed
  • Automatic system testing: the monitoring center should check the equipment automatically on a regular basis, ensuring its proper performance
  • Multilingual staff: not all companies provide this service, but if English is the user's second language, it may be difficult for them to communicate with the call center, especially with heightened emotions during an emergency

Monitoring Center Type

Some companies prefer to have their own monitoring companies, whereas other outsource this task. Regardless, it's important to check their staff's training (such as Emergency Medical Dispatch), and whether they're listed with the Underwriter's Laboratory or have a Central Station Alarm Association 5-Diamond Certification. Also make sure that the centers are in the United States, as they are generally held to higher standards.


Contract & Price

25%

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Every medical alert company deals with contracts and fees a little differently. When they offer professional monitoring, the monthly bill generally covers the monitoring service and any cost associated with renting or leasing the equipment. This is a good option that generally includes any repairs, upgrades, or replacements. Consider pre-paying for the year or a set period, as this may signficantlt reduce your costs. Companies that offer the option of DIY monitoring generally sell the equipment directly to the user, and don't require any contracts. Whichever sort of system you decide on, it's always important to make sure you read through the fine print thoroughly and carefully, in case there are any hidden or additional fees. Since many medical alert systems are purchased on the behalf of the user, most companies have no problem with separate billing and service addresses.

Landline

Traditionally, medical alert companies worked solely through landlines. This is still the most affordable option, but it's best to use the landline in conjunction with cellular backup, in case the phones go out during an emergency. Prices generally start around $25, and can reach $60 for some companies.

Cellular

Medical alert systems that function via cellular ensure good connectivity and generally provide increased mobility, but this depends on reliability of the service inside and outside your home. Pricing depends on the company.

Mobile/GPS

Seniors or other medical alert users who travel a lot or have high levels of mobility may find traditional medical alerts with a base unit too confining and unequal to their needs. To that end, many companies have developed medical alert apps for cell phones, or mobile devices that eliminate the need for a base unit altogether.

Free Monitoring for Additional Person

Some medical alert companies offer free monitoring for an additional person on the system. This is especially useful for elderly couples.

Contract Required?

Most medical alert companies that offer professional monitoring require a minimum contract length, although some will allow users to pay month to month. Contract can be as short as 3 months, but can also reach 36 months on the outside end of the spectrum.


Reputation

20%

Selecting the medical alert system that is right for you or your loved one can be challenging, and reading reviews from consumers can be a great way to help you narrow down your options. When researching companies on review websites, make sure to consider not just the score but also the total number of reviewers, since a low number but an overall high score may not be as truly representative of the consumer experience as a larger sample size would. Another important factor to look at is the company's feedback. Businesses that genuinely care about their customers tend to take the time to address issues and attempt to remedy negative situations. Finally, make sure to learn from other people's mistakes, not only by avoiding companies with consistently bad reviews, but by thinking how certain issues might have been avoided altogether. Perhaps a particularly vitriolic review doesn't take into account that the source of their complaint is plainly stated in the company's terms of service, or could have been prevented by coming to the company sooner with their concerns. 

Certifications

There are two main certifications for medical alert monitoring centers: Underwriter's Laboratories (UL) and the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA). The most coveted rating with the CSAA is a five-diamond certification, which guarantees excellence and professionalism. Some companies also have certifications for their equipment, or require that their call agents have Emergency Medical Dispatch certifications as well.



Customer Questions & Answers

How do medical alert systems work?

Medical alert systems typically come with an emergency help button that sends a signal to the company’s monitoring call-center when activated. A company representative will subsequently contact the system’s user over a 2-way intercom and offer assistance. Some systems are now wireless and include fall detection sensors and mobile buttons you can take anywhere.

Who should use a medical alert system?

Medical alert systems are ideal for those who live alone and could need medical assistance while family or caretakers are away. Medical alert systems are not only for seniors, but also for pregnant women, anyone with a debilitating health condition, people recovering from medical procedures such as surgery, and patients undergoing physical therapy or rehabilitation.

How much do medical alert systems cost?

The cost of your medical alert system will depend on the equipment you select—whether in-home or mobile—and the type of coverage you need. Most systems are priced between $25 and $50 a month and typically include equipment and monitoring, although activation fees may apply. Some companies offer annual or quarterly plans for lower monthly rates.

Can you get a medical alert system if you don't have a landline?

Yes. At one point in time, a landline connection was the only way a medial alert base unit could communicate with the monitoring center. Now, there is also the option for a cellular connection, which sends signals thought a cellular link, like a cell phone. Medical alert companies partner with high profile mobile phone service providers, like T-mobile or AT&T, and use their networks to connect cellular base units to the monitoring center. Don’t worry, just because your system operates off of T-Mobile’s network, doesn’t mean you’ll have to pay a bill for their services as well, it is included in your medical alert payments. As a result, cellular systems are typically slightly more expensive, but at the same time, you don’t have to pay for a landline if you don’t have one already.

Does Medicare or other insurance cover medical alerts?

Original Medicare, Part A and B, does not cover medical alert systems. However, people who receive their benefits through a Medicare Supplement plan can ask their providers if the cost of equipment can be covered, especially if the system is medically warranted. Those who have long-term care Insurance may also qualify for coverage or reimbursement.

Are medical alerts tax deductible?

The IRS does not currently list medical alert systems under tax-exempt medical expenses. However, if your medical alert system includes a feature that stores your medical information in a data bank that your physician can access, you may be able to claim the expense under the Medical Information Plan exemption.

Can I get a medical alert system for my parents, but have it charged to me?

Yes, most medical alerts are purchased by adult children for their elderly parents, so companies are familiar with this situation. When you sign up with the company know that this is your situation and they will be able to make those arrangements for you.

Is installing a medical alert system in my home difficult?

Installing medical alert systems is not at all difficult. Systems that use a base unit can be installed in minutes by plugging the device into a power source and connecting it to a wall phone outlet using a phone cord. Newer mobile versions take even less time to activate and test. Most companies offer online or over-the-phone installation support with detailed instructions.

How does fall detection technology work?

Some alert systems come with integrated fall detection technology. The wearable device, typically a pendant or wristband, continuously monitors the speed and direction of the user’s movements through accelerometers and gyroscopes that differentiate between falls and regular gestures. If it detects a fall, the device will alert the monitoring center after a period of inactivity.

Can the medical alert system monitor me and my spouse at the same time?

Some companies offer an additional alert button for a second user, providing free monitoring for the second device after its purchase. If the medical alert system works through a base unit, both devices can be linked to the same unit and be monitored simultaneously. Newer, mobile systems may have to be purchased separately.