HandsFree Health, WellBe Medical Alert Plus: Review

WellBe medical Alert Plus

The Basics

Product name: WellBe Medical Alert PLUS 

Manufacturer / Distributor: HandsFree Health

Compilation: Q1 2021

 

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This page contains our HandsFree Health | WellBe Medical Alert PLUS review.

 

 

Analyst Summary: HandsFree Health | WellBe Medical Alert PLUS

The WellBe Medical Alert PLUS incorporates the key features of a conventional medical alert into the format of a watch — and includes several smartwatch features as well.

This product is one of several products we compared in a piece of research called "Smartwatch as Medical Alert". If you are interested in this category of product, we recommend you look at that comparative review.

The WellBe Medical Alert Plus is one of the "easiest to use" products in this category. It functions quite well as a medical alert, looks quite stylish, and has the key smartwatch attributes of telling the time, and step counting, and heart rate measurement.

It does have some limitations as a medical alert (see below). 

If you want a medical alert that keeps you as safe as possible, don't mind wearing a conventional medical alert even if it looks ugly, and don't really care about having extra smartwatch features like step counting in your medical alert, then one of the more conventional products we compared in "Mobile Medical Alerts: Comparative Evaluation" might be more to your liking.

But beware. Even though it is easy to say "I want to be as safe as possible", the truth is many people purchase a medical alert but then don't wear it, because they don't like the way it looks and feels. If you think that might be you, this may be just what you need. Because even though it has some limitations (see below), because it is really "a stylish watch", we think you are more likely to wear this than more conventional medical alerts.

The product is distributed by a company called HandsFree Health, which also sells a "Smart Speaker" that incorporates "WellBe", described as a "Virtual Assistant designed to help you better manage your health".

This review focuses on the WellBe Medical Alert Plus, which you can buy either by itself or together with the smart speaker. While the smart speaker seems like an interesting product too, we do not evaluate it in detail in this review.

 

 

The Pluses

We like the way this product looks. It is far from the ugly, stigmatizing, conventional medical alert to which we have become accustomed.

And by combining a medical alert, a watch, and step counting, and heart rate measurement it rolls four of the basic "wearable functions" into a single product.

To initiate a "call for help", you press a (prominent) button on the side of the watch. This is an easy process.

Or, you can open up the "smartwatch feature screen" with a single button press and then press an on-screen "emergency" icon to initiate the call.

It has a "fairly" easy-to-use clasp, which appears identical to that on an Apple Watch, and a comfortable band — also just like the Apple Watch's band. 

One of the advantages of this family of "smart watch medical alerts" is that extra features can be added with software updates. So, if you are reading this after our initial review date, check the list of features on the company's website to see if extra features have been added.

The smartwatch features are accessed from a simple uncluttered screen. They allow step counting and heart rate monitoring (as well as calling for help). These features are somewhat "basic" at present, but seem to work quite well. Importantly, the displays are uncluttered and easy to use. They do require you to be comfortable with the concept of "swiping".

 

Smart Speaker as "Second Line of Defense"

A very interesting aspect of this product is its integration with a "smart speaker" and a "virtual health assistant" called WellBe.

These products have all sorts of possible uses beyond "calling for help", and some may want to consider this product because of those extra possibilities (beyond the scope of this review).

However, in terms of the "calling for help" use case, the speaker has a potentially valuable role as a sort of "second line of defense". Here is why.

The smart speaker allows you to make a "call for help" quite independently of the "smart watch". You can do this in two ways. You can press a "help" button on the speaker. Or you can verbally ask the speaker to "call for help" for you.

In either case, the speaker then initiates a call for help to the same monitoring service that gets called if you press the "alert button" on the smartwatch.

This could be extremely useful if you are not wearing the smartwatch (for example during charging), but have an emergency and need to call for help. It alleviates some of the negatives of a finite battery life!

Furthermore, the smart speaker connects to the internet and the outside world via your WiFi network (or over 4G if the WiFi is down). This means it can "work" in a room where you have a WiFi signal but not a cell signal. So by judicious choice of where you put the speaker, you can arrange to have "emergency calling capability" in rooms where you don't have good cell coverage (via the speaker), as well as everywhere there is cell coverage (via the watch).

 

WelBe Smart Speaker

Caption: WellBe Smart Speaker

 

Virtual Health Assistant

The WellBe Virtual Health Assistant is not necessarily relevant to the function of this product as a medical alert. However we think it is a rather intriguing extra capability of this product suite that may interest many.

While we did not set out to evaluate the Virtual Health Assistant, here are some things we noted.

  • The Virtual Health Assistant is really an artificial intelligence (AI) like Amazon's Alexa. However it is NOT based on Alexa but is a proprietary system assembled by HandsFree Health from several underlying technology building blocks.
     
  • As a result, according to the company, the WellBe AI is HIPAA compliant, and was designed with an emphasis on data privacy, and does NOT allow third party apps (skills). These are important details for an AI that may have access to details of your medical treatments and insurance coverage (if you choose to give them to it — you do not have to).
     
  • Although WellBe can do things like play music and tell you the time, the real focus seems to be on health-related capabilities. The company's website mentions things like asking questions about insurance or other medical questions, and setting reminders for medications.

 

 

The Minuses

The product does not have an automatic fall detection capability. It relies on you to press the button to summon help. For some, this is a major weakness. We discuss this more in the comparative article "Smartwatch as Medical Alerts" linked to above.

In our testing it worked quite well as a medical alert (see comparison article for how this and its competitors performed in "calling for help"). However, it had a period where it did not correctly report GPS location to the monitoring service — which meant when we made a call for help, the responders did NOT know where we were. This is not good. But also, not uncommon with these smartwatches. See section below on "GPS bug" for more details.

In our hands-on exploration of this product by our Longevity Explorers, some of the women felt it was "a bit big", but better than many of its competitors. All of the men thought its size was fine.

In terms of smartwatch capabilities, it has step counting capability (and can tell the time of course), and can measure heart rate. But it lacks the weather, which many smartwatch-using older adults like, and has none of the many "extra apps" that a full featured smartwatch (like an Apple watch) has.

The heartrate feature needs some clarification. You can "measure" your heart rate at any time, but that requires you to open the heartrate app on the smartwatch, take off the watch and put a finger on a sensor on the back, and then wait for a short period while it measures your heart rate.

 

 

The Details

For lots more details about this product, including the topics below, we suggest you read "Smartwatch as Medical Alert?".

In Smartwatch as Medical Alert? we discuss topics including:

  • charging;
  • can you wear it in the shower?
  • ease of use;
  • where it does and does not work;
  • response time;
  • how well it can locate you;
  • any "failures to call for help" in our testing;
  • how this category of medical alert smartwatch compares with more conventional medical devices; and
  • features for caregivers (like knowing where the wearer is).

 

Here are some additional items not fully addressed in our comparative evaluation: Smartwatch as Medical Alerts.

 

Charging and Batteries

The watch needs to be connected to a cable to charge. The cable has a very simple magnetic connector, although it is slightly less convenient than dropping it onto a magnetic pad or cradle. It charges fairly quickly (1-2 hours in our testing, the company spec says 1 hour charging).

In our testing, the battery lasted for less than a day when we wore it continuously, averaging about 20 hours. When we discussed this with the company they said they expected "typically" for the battery to last for "20 hours, but varied from device to device, and depended on how you use the watch". 

This is not "ideal", but fairly typical for this category of smartwatch as medical alert.

The right way to think about this is to consider exactly how you would use the product. 

  • If you use it during the day but take it off at night, the battery life we experienced should be fine.
  • If you want something you can wear "24/7 and never take off", this product will not be suitable, but nor are most of the other "smartwatch medical alerts", and only a small number of more conventional "mobile medical alerts".
  • If you fit an "in between" category where you want to wear it all day and night, but take it off daily for an hour or two to charge, then the battery life of this product will be a bit marginal, at least it was in our test conditions.

 

Appearance and Ease of Use

This is an especial advantage of this product.

Apart from some comments about it "being a bit big", the Longevity Explorers who looked at the product generally thought it had a modern aesthetic and was attractive in appearance, and looked "well made", rather than "looking cheap" as did some of the competitors.

Using the touch screen you can access the "smartwatch features" as shown in the image below. NOTE: While you "can" call for help nusing the red emergency icon below, you can also just press the "crown" button on the side to initiate the "call for help" without needing to interface with the smart watch aspect at all.

 

WellBe Medical Alert touchscreen icons

Caption: Screens L-R: Main watch face, emergency call icon, pedometer icon, heart rate icon.

 

Works Everywhere

The WellBe Medical Alert Plus connects to the outside world via a cell signal (in the watch itself) and uses the 4G LTE network. The device uses the T-Mobile network. This means it will work anywhere there is cell reception for that carrier.

It does NOT require you to have a smartphone.

 

GPS "Bug"

The first few times we tested the product after receiving it, it worked well and when we asked the "responder" "where we were" they were able to correctly tell us our location.

However, on the fourth day of testing the responder explained they "were not getting a GPS location", which meant the only way they had of knowing "where we were" was for us to tell them.

We tried rebooting the watch, but this did not fix the issue. After talking with the company, they told us we had "found a bug". They updated the software (something that can be done fairly easily remotely), and after that the product was able to report its location in the remainder of our testing.

Bottom line: This was a non-trivial "problem". However, assuming it stays "fixed", it should not be an issue for readers thinking of purchasing the product.

 

Vision & Hearing Issues

The face of the watch is bright, crisp, and easy to read. When making a call, the sound is clear and fairly loud.

 

Smartwatch Features

The watch has a choice of several watch faces, including a digital face with large numbers, and an analog face with "hands".

The watchface is a touchscreen, which means the company could potentially add additional features in the future with software updates.

It has a basic step counting capability, and the "killer app" of "telling the time", and heart rate measurement. At the date of testing, it did not include weather.

It does not have the ability to make calls (other than the emergency call). 

 

Can You Wear it in the Shower?

It has a water resistant rating of IPX7, which means "(up to 1 meter for 30 minutes)". So, it should be fine to wear in the shower, alhough not when you go for a swim.

 

Caregiving App

The WellBe Medical Alert Plus comes with an accompanying "app" called "WellBe". However, this app is not really what we think of as a caregiving app (as of Feb 2021).

It does NOT allow a caregiver to locate the watch. Nor does it allow geofencing.

HandsFree Health says they are working to add a caregiver app with features like these, and that will be an important "improvement".

 

Pricing

  • For current pricing, see the vendor's website (links below).
  • For a table comparing pricing of this product and the others in our comparative analysis at the time of our evaluations, see Smartwatch as Medical Alert: Pricing.

 

 

 

 

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Tech-enhanced Life readers can get $20 + free shipping off the price of this product if they use this code: TELIFE20.

 

 

Where to buy it or learn more*: (this takes you away from our website)

Reviewed product

 

 

 

Discount for Tech-enhanced Life readers

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  • Code: TELIFE20

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* Disclosure: If you use these links when you buy products we write about, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate or other affiliate program participant. This does not affect the price you pay. See How we Fund our Work.

 

 

 

About this Research

This product review is part of an extensive series of medical alert system reviews of over 50 products, including hands-on evaluation and real-world testing of the most promising ones, in real-world situations.

These reviews and analyses are part of our Research Project designed to help older adults and their families Choose the Right Medical Alert System for YOU — the result of which is our Medical Alert Systems: Selection Guide.

We have tried hard to make this research as independent and objective as possible. It has not been funded or sponsored by any of the vendors of these products, and includes no advertising or "sponsored content". The team that conducted this research has strong scientific, clinical, and aging services backgrounds. You can read more about the team that did this research at the links above. 

 

Help Support our Research

We hope you found this work useful. If you like what we do, and would like to see it continue, please consider contributing time, ideas, or some funding to help support our work.

We are currently raising contributions from those who find our work valuable to complete some new research initiatives, all targeted at helping older adults live better for longer. And we are always looking for contributions of ideas about what to work on, or help executing some of our projects.

Learn More: Help Support our Research.

 

Comments

 

from Melissa S. (unverified) at June 08, 2021

Does this watch app allow caregivers to be notified of possible emergency and does this watch have fall detection?

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Last Updated: April 15, 2021.

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Review Star Rating: 
4.0 Stars