If you are looking for a medical alert system (also called a personal emergency response system), either for yourself or for an older adult such as a parent, this piece of research is for you.
We started this work because we kept getting asked “which medical alert system is best?“; and “how do I choose the right medical alert system for me?“. We wanted to find answers to these questions and share them. This report is the result.
Both a Learning Module, and a Selection Tool
We wanted to provide answers, not just background material that gave you more work to do before you could reach an answer. So we started by developing a “selection tool” that helped people decide which of the many available medical alert systems (we analyzed over 50) would work best in their specific circumstance.
But then it became clear that many people needed some extra background understanding to help them use the selection tool. So we added a learning module — containing the basics of how medical alerts work and the different types. That way you choose whether to learn first, then decide. Or just jump straight to the decision section.
So our guide has two primary components. The learning module consists of a lecture, and a simple tutorial to introduce you to the basics of what a medical alert system is, and how it works. The selection tool assumes you know more or less what features are important to you (which you discover using the learning module), and lets you use some simple filters to discover which actual products have the features you need.
There are three additional portions of this guide. There is a section on “Best of Breed” Medical Alert Systems. And another section containing extensive individual reviews of the many medical alert products we have actually tested. The guide also includes a section in which we provide specific product recommendations for each of several separate “personas“.
You can access all of this material from the link below.
While there is a lot of material on the internet about medical alert systems, we found most of it was lightly camouflaged marketing material. And of the websites that attempted to be objective, none gave us what we sought, which was analysis that was personalized; independent and objective; and deep.
We wanted a tool that helped us reach the right decision quickly and move on (What should I buy and why?). When it became clear that such a tool does not exist, we set out to create one, and that is the focus of this Guide.
The Research Team
We strive hard to produce independent, objective, and in-depth research. That requires the right type of people.
The people who do the actual evaluations are technologists rather than journalists — and are themselves either older adults or the children of aging parents.
And to make sure we were asking the right questions, and thinking correctly about the use cases, we recruited a panel of expert advisors — including clinicians and aging services professionals with extensive experience in working with the older adult population that uses these medical alert systems. Professional competencies in the advisor panel included social work, physio-therapy, and nursing, and experience operating independent living communities.
Feedback & Testimonials
Here is some of the feedback we have received so far about our research into medical alert systems and the selection tools we have developed.
“I really enjoyed your presentation last night. It was a very complex topic and you broke it down really well. I know you must have put a ton of work into it.” Phil Marechal, Home Instead Franchise Owner.
I happened to look on my Nextdoor site and read that a neighbor was looking to help simplify the search for a medical alert device. I sent her a link to your page. Below is her response:
“Thank you so much Lisa, that’s an awesome site and already is helping me narrow down the overwhelming choices. My husband and I have attended a couple Aging2.0 events, and while it’s great to see the technology ideas being put out there, it also becomes another burden on the caregivers to make to ‘right’ choice. This really helps…thanks again.” Lisa Brinkmann, Executive Director, Marin Villages.
“The Medical Alert System Guide is a really wonderful resource, thank you for making it available!” Scott McMullin, Co-Chair of Sequoia Village.
“I enjoyed your workshop and I found it very useful to get the user’s point of view. Since I work at a nonprofit with people with disabilities in San Mateo County, safety is a big concern. Clients want to be safe and independent as possible. I found two things especially helpful with the workshop: 1) identifying the user types in detail and prioritizing needs, and 2) matching those needs with the latest industry tools.” Leonardo Camargo, Assistive Technology Coordinator, Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities, San Mateo, CA.
“Your workshop was very informative, very helpful! With so many products on the market, it is difficult to know which personal emergency response system is the best one. Your systematic way of aligning the needs and life-style of prospective purchasers is both practical and thorough.”, PH, Workshop attendee, Missoula, Montana.
“Yes! Keep doing these workshops!!!! It was extremely helpful. I only wish I’d had access to your information a year ago, when I first purchased an emergency response system for my Dad. Now that he is no longer driving, a different system is in order. So, I very much appreciated your information.” SB, Workshop attendee, Missoula, Montana.
“Thank you again. It is a beautiful site! I used the decision tree and it appears the Splash from GreatCall would be the ideal choice as I want her to have wearable device that can go with her wherever there is cell coverage. My only remaining worry is that because she is hard of hearing she may not interact successfully when they attempt to contact her when she falls. I am hoping it would prompt them to call me as an emergency contact.” EB, User of Online Selection Tool.
Get Started Now
Individual sections of the guide