Written by: Aaron Hall | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: February 24th, 2020
Medical alert systems have come a long way since their early days in the 1970s. A medical alert system used to be just a device that would automatically dial a preset phone number when you pressed a panic button. Now technological advancements have given medical alert systems many more functions like fall detection and GPS location tracking. So, what does the future hold? Here are some ways that companies are making strides to bring medical alert systems into the future:
These have become fairly commonplace among many medical alert companies. These systems operate on cellular GPS signals in order to pinpoint someone's location. GPS-based systems need to be recharged on a daily basis because the base unit is portable — usually the size of a deck of cards. You carry the base unit and the emergency button with you at all times. Companies such as MobileHelp have chosen to specialize in these sorts of medical alert systems that cater to adults with healthy, active lifestyles.
Classic medical alert models operate on a landline connection to get you in touch with emergency personnel. These systems are still widely being sold and will probably have their place until a more technologically-savvy generation grows older and needs medical alert systems. GPS-based systems are also slightly easier to install. You should only have to plug in the system and it's ready to go.
Some companies feature apps that you can download to your mobile phone that then functions as a sort of medical alert system. This is a convenient and inexpensive way to make a medical alert system work for you, but there are a few limitations with it:
- Are you smartphone savvy? Many elderly folks simply aren't. A complicated smartphone could be overwhelming for someone who just wants a simple push-button wristband or pendant. The process of unlocking the phone and opening an app is much more complicated than pushing a help button.
- What is your current data plan? Mobile phones must have GPS locating capabilities to be fully functional as a medical alert device. These devices must have a robust data plan that can track your phone 24/7 without causing overages. A normal flip phone probably won't have these capabilities.
- Is the app reliable? This depends on the company and the designer. Talk to a company representative about what mobile apps they offer. Look them up on the app store, and pay attention to what current customers have said about their reliability and usability.
Currently, GreatCall is a company that specializes in specific medical alert/cell phone devices. The cell phones operate as medical alert devices that have to be attached to one of the company's data plans. This could be convenient for seniors who want to bundle their cell phone and medical alert system, so more manufacturers might start doing the same thing in the future.
At the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, Medical Guardian debuted a new device called the Freedom Guardian, which is a smartwatch designed for seniors who want a portable medical alert system. Not only does it function as a medical alarm in case of a fall, but you can also set reminders for medication or calendar events along with sending and receiving text messages. With text messaging, the device will send you the message and can read it aloud to you, as well as translate voice into text. One of the best parts is that the device looks similar to your average Apple Watch.
In the technological world, smartwatches are still relatively new, so we have yet to see other companies come forward with devices such as a medical alert-focused smartwatch. However, this may change as the industry continues to progress and grow. As baby boomers and other technologically-savvy seniors grow older, smartwatches will probably become more popular.
In order to take a look at the best medical alert companies in the industry, visit our handy guide at Best Company.