The Best Medical Alert Systems

Elder care experts agree: The best medical alert system offers reliable equipment, transparent pricing, and help at the push of a button. After tracking down all 27 nationwide providers, we scored them on service, transparency, and breadth of equipment. Then we hand-tested 5 finalists for the easiest setup and speediest response. Our 3 top picks left us confident our loved ones would be in good hands.

The Best Medical Alert Systems

Our 3 Top Picks

Other Options

Our Top Picks

Medical Guardian review

Best
Customer Service
Medical Guardian
Medical Guardian
Starting at $29.95
Pros
Fastest Response Time
Excellent Customer Support
Simple Setup
Stylish Equipment
Cons
Difficult-To-Read Manual
Initial Contract Required

Why we chose it

Fastest response time

Medical Guardian blew the competition out of the water with its incredible response time. Some finalists required us to wait at least a full minute between placing our emergency calls and receiving a response (a surprisingly long time when you’re counting every second), but Medical Guardian averaged 39 seconds across five test calls. We let the operator know each time that we were only testing, but in a real emergency, those extra seconds matter.

Customer support

Medical Guardian had uniformly impressive customer service. When we called their helpline, our call was answered immediately, and the rep helpfully answered our questions before wishing us a good evening by name. Medical Guardian was also one of few companies with a live chat option. Our rep’s name and phone number appeared as soon as our chat began — giving us a way to address follow-up question to the same person — and we had the option of forwarding our chat transcripts via email (helpful if you’re a caregiver collecting information on behalf of someone else).

Medical Guardian units for Medical Alert Systems

Simple setup

We were delighted with how straightforward activation was. The device was ready to place emergency calls as soon as we plugged it in. Medical Guardian also clearly lays out how to cancel an accidental call, which is more useful than you might think: Our Medical Alert cellular unit summoned paramedics to our office after we bumped against the unit and couldn’t figure out how to cancel the alert quickly enough. And like all of our finalists, Medical Guardian also allows you to contact a customized list of emergency contacts before calling emergency services. This means you can contact trusted family or friends instead of emergency personnel at your discretion.

Stylish equipment

Among our finalists, Medical Guardian has a unique base unit design. Its landline model is sleeker than similar brands like LifeStation, and its cellular model includes date, time, and temperature on its visual display — not a necessity by any means, but a nice touch when most other units resembled vintage answering machines. Medical Guardian also has the most unique wearables. As with other brands, you’ll get your choice of a watch or a pendant; but while most of the watches we tested had a scratchy velcro wristband or displayed the standard white-and-grey button with a cross that was obviously medical alert equipment, the Medical Guardian band looked pretty discreet. Testers with slender wrists found it bulky and preferred the pendant, but both wearables were unusually stylish.

Pendant Comparison for Medic Alert Systems

Points to consider

Difficult-to-read manual

We had just one qualm with Medical Guardian during setup. We received two instruction booklets: a quick-start guide, and a more in-depth instruction manual. The manual had a comprehensive list of clearly labeled diagrams that explained how the device worked, which we loved — but the font was small enough to be difficult for vision-impaired seniors to read. It’s easy to use the system without reading through these details, but vision-impaired folks who want to understand every detail of their system should plan on having a caregiver present during installation.

Initial contract required

Medical Guardian’s main con is that it requires a three-month commitment before you can move on to a month-to-month plan. However, they do have a 30-day money back guarantee, so you can cancel your service within 30 days of receiving your equipment for a refund. If you miss that window, you’ll have to pay for the full three months’ initial commitment before you cancel.

Bay Alarm Medical review

Best for
Flexible Plans
Bay Alarm Medical
Bay Alarm
Starting at $19.95
Pros
Easy Ordering
Solid Response Time
Free Trial And Flexible Plan Terms
Cons
Aesthetics
Unexpected Alerts

Why we chose it

Easy ordering

During the initial ordering process, Bay Alarm made an especially strong showing: Web ordering was painless, and its crisp website had video demonstrations, a weekly blog, and clear pricing and terms. An attractively formatted FAQ page answered our questions, and a cheerful live chat rep was waiting to walk us through our options at all times. Customer service reps responded to emails quickly and courteously — when we notified them to let them know that we were missing a terms and conditions sheet with our order, they forwarded the relevant documents to us within the same day.

Solid response time

On average, Bay Alarm Medical took 60 seconds to connect us to a monitoring center: faster than most of our other finalists (though a bit longer than Medical Guardian’s 39-second average).

Free trial and flexible plan terms

Bay Alarm plans offer plenty of flexibility. First off, there’s a 30-day trial period, during which you can receive a full refund if you return your equipment. After your trial ends, plans can be set up to bill at one-, three-, and six-month intervals. And multi-month billing doesn’t require a contract; Bay Alarm will refund you for any remaining, unused months of your plan if you cancel.

Points to consider

Aesthetics

Bay Alarm’s equipment isn’t the sleekest or most discreet. Our base station was clunky, with nothing but a speaker and a brightly colored “Help” button. There’s also nothing stand-out about the way the wearables look: they’re white and grey, with medical crosses clearly visible, and look identical to OneCallAlert’s wristband and pendant. They’re comfortable, but if you want equipment that’s not blatantly obvious about being a medical alert device, we’d suggest Medical Guardian instead

Bay Alarm for Medical Alert Systems

Unexpected alerts

Our cellular unit alerted us to signal strength by calling out “Two bars” or “Three bars,” sometimes when weren’t expecting it — not particularly helpful information, especially since we don’t know Bay Alarm’s maximum number of bars.

MobileHelp review

Best for
Active Seniors
MobileHelp
MobileHelp
Starting at $29.95
Pros
Innovative Equipment
Speedy Response Time
Cons
Hard-to-read Instructions
No Price Lock

Why we chose it

Innovative equipment

MobileHelp manufactures much of the equipment used by other medical alert companies, so its own offerings are first-in-class. In addition to standard options like landline units, pendants, and wristwatches, MobileHelp is one of the first medical alert companies to offer a fully-functional smartwatch as a medical alert device. The MobileHelp Smart, which looks and works like a Samsung Gear S3 smartwatch, operates via touchscreen and comes with fitness-tracking functions, GPS technology — and a direct line to the MobileHelp emergency center. If you're looking for a device that's discreet and stylish, we didn't find a better option.

MobileHelp for Medic Alert Systems

Speedy response time

With a prompt response time averaging 46.8 seconds, MobileHelp was the third fastest of all our finalists. In each of our calls to the emergency help center, we experienced prompt, professional responses from service reps.

Points to consider

Hard-to-read instructions

MobileHelp’s bulky user manual comes with instructions not just for the unit you ordered, but for every model available from MobileHelp. It took us more effort than usual to locate setup information for the system we actually ordered. We recommend budgeting a little extra time to read the instructions thoroughly, or calling the customer service line for help if you have any questions.

No price lock

Unlike our other top picks, MobileHelp's contract doesn't have a price lock; it's possible that your monthly fee will go up at some point in the future. MobileHelp's Terms and Conditions specify that the company reserves the right "to increase charges at any time upon giving notice." If prices do go up, you'll have 10 days to cancel your service with no penalty fees.

Other Options

Life Alert

Another Option
Life Alert
Life Alert

We liked that Life Alert doesn’t require a landline and that most packages are customizable to fit your needs. That said, you can only order Life Alert systems by phone and the customer service rep we spoke with couldn’t give us specific information about monthly cost or features. (Note: some product information is available online, but it’s limited.) Due to these concerns, we eliminated Life Alert from our contenders list early on.

OneCallAlert

Others We Tested
OneCallAlert
OneCallAlert
Starting at $24.95

OneCallAlert's equipment looked identical to Bay Alarm’s and functioned similarly, with easy setup and prompt customer service. However, its fine print was less favorable. In its Terms and Conditions, OneCallAlert retains the ability to increase its fees at any time as long as it provides 30-day written notice — unlike Bay Alarm and Medical Guardian, which both offer a price lock that guarantees the initial fee you sign up for. When we asked OneCallAlert customer service reps whether there was a cap on how much or how often their fees could be raised, we received vague, evasive responses.

Medical Alert

Others We Tested
Medical Alert
Medical Alert
Starting at $19.95

Medical Alert got high marks for its clear instructions and easy setup, but a few flaws kept it from a top spot. It had one of the slowest average response times of all the contenders at 74 seconds, and its Terms and Conditions allow for a 10% price increase each year.

LifeStation

Others We Tested
LifeStation
LifeStation
Starting at $25.95

LifeStation’s equipment looked identical to Medical Alert’s, but its instructions failed to explain set-up as thoroughly, leaving us confused when the machine started yelling voice prompts like “Ready for learning!” and “Timer off!” — disorienting when we were just trying to figure out how to place an emergency test call. The recessed power switch on its landline unit was also difficult for our testers to reach and would make setup difficult for anyone with reduced mobility. But LifeStation did win a few points for customer care: it was the only company to contact us when it detected that the power for our unit had been disconnected, sending us an email that urged us to re-test our system.

ADT Health

Others We Tested
ADT Health
ADT Health
Starting at $29.99

We were impressed with ADT's exceptionally fast response time of 39 seconds — earning it a first-place tie with Medical Guardian. But we found ADT's ordering and setup process more cumbersome. Before you can start placing emergency calls, you'll need to call the customer service hotline during business hours to set up your system, a step other providers don't require. However, once we finished setup, we found the emergency helpline reps to be helpful, friendly, and prompt.

Acadian On Call

Others We Tested
Acadian On Call
Acadian On Call
Starting at $24.95

Acadian On Call had easy setup (just plug it in) and an excellent customer service line, with near-instant connection to reps who were happy to answer our questions. However, when we tested our system's emergency response, we were less thrilled. Acadian On Call had an average response time of 1:24 minutes, ranking last out of all our contenders. That’s not ideal if you’re waiting for help in an emergency situation.

Walgreens ReadyResponse

Others We Tested
Walgreens Ready Response
Walgreens ReadyResponse
Starting at $29.99

We were curious about Walgreens’ medical alert system but ultimately disappointed by its quality. When we plugged in our unit and pressed the emergency button, it rang for over three minutes before we finally cancelled the call. When we called customer service for help, the rep provided little assistance. After running us unsuccessfully through a couple of troubleshooting tips, he told us to install a different unit if we had another one — we didn't — and that it was possible the equipment just didn't work in our location (downtown Seattle).

Guide To Medical Alert Systems

Everything you need to know

Landline vs. cellular connections

You’ll have two choices for how your emergency response system is connected. Costs usually differ depending on which option you choose, and we generally found cellular systems to be more expensive.

  • Landline systems plug into a phone jack. They include a base station and a wearable device (usually a watch or pendant), which routes calls through the base when you call for help. If the majority of your medical risk lies when home alone, this option should suffice.
  • Cellular systems connect to a cellular network, much like a mobile phone. If you don’t have a landline connection, these systems can work with your phone plan. They can be designed for at-home or mobile use. Cellular systems are less susceptible to power outages but can be less reliable in areas with spotty cell service. These are best for active seniors who are often on-the-go.

At-home vs mobile cellular systems

Both connect via a cellular network; the difference is whether a base station is required.

At-home systems route calls for help via a base station. These systems typically have a maximum range within which the base and wearable device (usually a watch or pendant) can communicate.

Mobile systems connect to a monitoring service directly, without passing through a base station. They’re equipped with GPS so the operator can send help to your exact location.

Alternative options — security systems and smart tech

In our current age of smartphones, smartwatches, and smart houses — it’s possible you can achieve the same end goal with technology you already have.

Smart watches like the Apple Watch do have some emergency features — you can dial 911 by holding the side button. The watch will send your emergency contacts a text message with your current location and an SOS. You’ll need an iPhone (and have to keep it nearby) or a cellular model of Apple Watch for this to work. You also need both hands mobile to activate the emergency mode, which may not be the case for every accident.

Smart hubs like Amazon Alexa and Google Home can technically call a neighbor, friend, or relative. But dialing 911 is a little more complicated. Alexa owners will need to purchase the Echo Connect add-on, and Google Home doesn’t currently support 911 calls. Even if you purchase the Amazon add-on, or Google rolls out this functionality, we wouldn’t recommend using it in place of a medical alert system.

Not only will you have to be able to project loud enough for it to hear you, but you’ll have to be in the same room to start with. And as people who’ve had these products know, they aren’t always immediately cooperative. An emergency is the last situation where you’d want to be frustratingly yelling “Hey, Google.”

The true benefit of an actual medical alarm system is that it’s simple and effective. You don’t need to be tech-savvy to hit a button. You’re also more likely to be intentional about having this device on your person at all times.

That said, some of our favorite home security and automation systems offer medical alert buttons as part of their systems. If you’ve already got a security system, it’s worth looking into. But we wouldn’t recommend outfitting a whole security system just for their medical alert devices.

How to find your perfect fit

Compare pricing information

Our top picks offer transparent pricing, but that may not be the case with all providers. Watch for extra fees that may be assessed on top of monthly monitoring charges, such as installation or activation fees; these can increase your total cost significantly.

Study plan terms

Look for a price-lock guarantee. If there isn’t one, your monthly service cost could increase in the future, even if you choose a plan with a contract. It’s also a good idea to investigate whether a contract is required and if there’s a cost associated with cancellation.

Check for promotions and discounts

Many medical alert system providers offer promotions for new customers, from free shipping to equipment discounts. Some also offer discounted monitoring if you agree to pay for more than one month at a time. (Note: multi-month billing is not necessarily the same as a contract. Some providers, like Bay Alarm, will refund unused months if you cancel.)

Ask about certification

All of our finalists have monitoring centers with third-party certification, either from Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA). This level of training helps to ensure your call will be handled appropriately in the event of an emergency.

Consider included and add-on features

Recent advances in tech have allowed companies to offer increasingly advanced features, from fall detection to mobile GPS tracking. But don’t get too caught up in the bells and whistles. Family caregiving expert Stephanie Erickson recommends, “Keep it as simple as possible. If there are too many buttons or too many features, many seniors will say, ‘Forget it, are you kidding me? I can barely work two remote controls.’”

Medical Alert System FAQs

What is a medical alert system?

A medical alert system is a device that allows you to call for help at the push of a button. When activated, a medical alert system connects you to an operator at a professional, 24/7 monitoring center, who will speak with you and call emergency services or a loved one on your behalf. Most medical alert systems include a wristband or pendant to ensure help is always within reach. Some offer automatic fall detection, allowing your device to alert the monitoring center if you can’t.

Why do I need a medical alert system?

Anyone can call 911 — but what if you’re unable to speak, can’t reach your phone, or don’t know your current location? Medical alert systems can shorten response times and relay important information about you to emergency personnel.

What features should I look for in a medical alert system?

This depends largely on your lifestyle. If you travel often, mobile medical alert systems provide on-the-go monitoring. If falls are a concern, many providers offer fall detection for an additional monthly cost. Keep in mind, all medical alert systems provide the same fundamental service: access to a professional monitoring center that will contact emergency services when you need help.

What is two-way voice?

Medical alert systems equipped with two-way voice allow you to speak with the operator in real time. This feature is valuable for calling off a false alarm if you call for help accidentally. In case of emergency, it also allows the operator to get more information about your situation to dispatch the right type of help.

If I cancel my medical alert service, do I have to send my equipment back?

Yes — in most cases, your medical alert equipment must be returned to your provider when you cancel your service. Be aware that some providers may charge a fee if the equipment is lost or damaged. Check your terms of service or contact customer service for details.

The Best Medical Alert Services: Summed Up

Medical Guardian
Bay Alarm Medical
MobileHelp
Reviews.com Top Pick
Monthly Cost
Starting at $29.95
Starting at $19.95
Starting at $29.95
Wireless Range (in-home systems)
600 - 1,300 feet
Up to 1,000 feet
Up to 600 feet
Fall Detection Available
Yes ($10/month)
Yes ($9.95/month)
Yes ($10/month)
Water Resistant Wearable Device
Plan Terms

  • Monthly
  • 3-month
  • 12-month

  • Monthly
  • 3-month
  • 12-month

  • Monthly
  • 3-month
  • 6-month
  • 12-month

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