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Medical Alert Systems – The Top 10 Questions You Should Ask Before Buying
Medical Alert Systems (or personal emergency response systems) are wonderful devices that allow older adults the opportunity to stay in their homes (safer), and remain as independent as possible. Keeping up with this new technology is hard, and knowing the right questions to ask is even harder! If you haven’t seen our Medical Alert System Round Up, you should check it out, and provide feedback (especially if you’ve had experience with any of the featured manufacturers). Today’s focus on Medical Alert Systems is aptly titled Top 10 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Medical Alert Systems. So without further adieu… Here is our Top 10 List (drum roll please):
1. Does this medical alert system work with VOIP (voice over internet protocol) phone services? If you have Comcast or Verizon cable at home, chances are you can also use it for your (home) phone service. If this is the case, you may be using a VOIP plan (as we do with Vonage, another major VOIP provider). Many of the traditional medical alert system providers recommend checking with your home telephone (VOIP) provider to see if they offer local 911 (and other) services. So keep this in mind, and ask *. (*Note: Alert system providers know their compatibility with major cell phone service providers.)
2. What is the range of my alert system? MOST of the major providers of medical alert systems have the following components included in their “systems”. A base station and a pendant of some kind (necklace – worn around the neck, belt clip, or wristwatch like device. The myHalo system also has a chest strap). MOST pendants need to communicate (wirelessly) with a base station that is connected to your home phone line. Therefore, you need to know the range of that pendant to the base station. Usually this range covers most normal sized houses, and is in the neighborhood of 400-600 feet. After installation, be sure to test the range inside (and outside) the house.
3. Did someone install this for me, or did I do it myself? Many manufacturers have sales/marketing representatives who will come to your home and install/test the system for you. They usually charge a one-time set-up fee for this service, so ask about that fee ahead of time! If all they do is send the alert system to you, make sure that there is a wide literature (on and off line) for assistance with the installation AND the test. Always test your medical alert system before using it.
4. Do I need a land line to use this medical alert system? In most cases, the answer will be YES, but there are a few exceptions. For example, the MobileHelp Medical Alert System has a small handheld device that connects to AT&T Wireless for use outside the home (anywhere covered by AT&T). To use your pendant device (small necklace) around the house, you always need a ground line. Additionally, the Wellcore Personal Emergency Response System boasts the ability to interface with certain cell phones to extend the range of your device outside of the home.
5. Who staffs your call center, where are they located, and what are the average response times? OK, this is a bit of a loaded question, because “outsourcing” call centers has been a trend that many, many companies are taking advantage of. Frankly, I have found great service from call centers all over the world, and the only thing you should pay attention to here is PERFORMANCE.
6. Does the medical alert system come with other services? Some medical alert systems come with additional services such as medication reminders, glucose monitoring reminders, and the like. It is good to know that other services may be included with the purchase of your services, so be sure to ask what is included.
7. What happens if something goes wrong with my equipment? Most of us hate reading the fine print. I challenge anyone out there to read the “terms and conditions” of the 5 or 6 medical alert devices you want to evaluate (it’s giving me a headache even thinking about doing it again). So with that in mind, I would encourage anyone making a decision on a particular device to ask; What happens if your system crashes? Anyone come out to fix it? Will they send you another soon? Do you need to restore the dysfunctional system? etc. Also, another point… when you’ve narrowed down your choice, read the fine print by looking for the particular provider’s terms and conditions on their websites.
8. Does the medical alert system include “automatic fall detection”? Medical alert systems have come a long way in the last 5 years. Today’s advanced systems can detect when a user has fallen automatically. It’s all in the advanced algorithms developed by brilliant engineers and integrated into small devices that save lives every day. These intelligent systems can distinguish (in most cases) between when someone has actually fallen, and when someone has decided to sit down suddenly. The “big three” that (currently) offer automatic fall detection are Halo Monitoring Systems, Wellcore Personal Emergency Response, and Philips Lifeline with automatic alert.
9. Do I buy these devices, or lease, or not? Back to my tip before you read the fine print… Find out (ahead of time) if the equipment is yours or not. What happens if you no longer need the equipment? What happens if they damage the equipment?
10. What is my total annual cost? This comes down to “brass tax”… How much is it costing me each year (cash outflow). Enough said.
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