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State of the Medical Alert Industry

Leo ChenApr 27, 2015

A Brief History

The creation of the first medical alert system is often credited to Wilhelm Hormann, a German inventor. He called his design “Hausnotruf,” which translates to “home alert” in English. He wanted to make sure the sick, elderly and disabled had a means of contacting somebody for help in case of an emergency.

However, in 1975, a California company called American International Telephone Company released the first medical alert system, years before Hormann was able to release his version. The “Emergency Dialer” was based on Hormann’s concept and featured a pendant worn by the neck that when pressed, would send a radio signal to the base unit. The base unit would then use a rotary phone to begin dialing the pre-programmed number.

The issue with these early systems was the single contact method. If the person who was programmed into the system was not home to pick-up the phone, the call for help would go unanswered. And even if the call was answered, the person on the other end would only know there was an emergency, with no idea of the status or severity of the situation.

In the 1980’s, medical alert companies began to realize the need for monitoring services and introduced call centers with medically trained operators who could act as the bridge between the medical alert user and emergency services.


Current State of the Industry

Today, medical alert systems are smaller, lighter, and come with more helpful features than ever before. Most systems are completely wireless (except for the power cord on the base unit), with many featuring cellular capability as opposed to traditional landline connections.  Base units with 2-way speakers built in have become an industry standard and allow representatives to speak directly to the system’s user, a comforting feature for those in an emergency situation. Additionally, mobile medical alerts with GPS tracking features, allows the user to be covered everywhere they go. Dedicated monitoring centers are staffed around the clock to ensure your safety at all times, often providing support in multiple languages.

These buttons aren’t used just for emergency help anymore. Users can also answer their phone remotely with the push of said button, or set up wellness checks on a routine basis. With the latest technology, you can rest easy knowing yourself or your loved ones are in good hands.


Looking to the Future

When looking into the future of medical alerts, the options seem endless. In America, we’ve seen a rise in small start-up businesses specializing in new technology or software. With the help of crowd- funding campaigns, ambitious inventors can easily test the popularity of their ideas even before entering the market. Large companies, like Amazon or Expedia, understand the impact these small companies are having to the marketplace and eagerly buy up promising companies, sometimes spending billions on a single concept or design. It seems like just about everyone is looking for the next big idea that could set them up for life, and as a result, there are more ideas and inventions on the market than ever before.

In addition to keeping an eye on what comes from these small companies, many medical alert companies are also watching other industries to see how they fair, take the Fitness industry for instance. Some fitness companies are experimenting with wearable sensors that constantly monitor vital statistics, such as blood pressure and heart rate. This technology, which can even be built into clothing, along with devices like the “fitbit” and other wellness tracking equipment inspire sleeker, smarter, and more efficient equipment.

Some medical alert companies have also begun to experiment with the idea of help button apps, however at this time most companies will agree that the ease of use required for medical alert is still not there. The amount of time it takes to unlock ones’ phone, locate the app and then call for help is still inefficient compared to the current help button’s ease of use, and that is only if you have your phone on you during an emergency. But with time, this could all change…

“It will be interesting to see how companies like Apple or Google will impact medical alert technology,” says Alan Wu, Marketing and Sales Manager at Bay Alarm Medical. The launch of the AppleWatch and other wearable devices like it, help button apps could become a reality in the near future.

But don’t get your hopes up yet! Whatever the next big medical alert development is, one thing is for sure, the best medical alert companies place the safety of their customers above anything else. So while medical alert companies may not be at the forefront of the technology frontier, you can be sure that whenever the next leap is made, you will be getting the same great quality and reliability you’ve come to expect from the medical alert community.