Medical Alert Systems (or personal emergency response systems) are wonderful devices that allow aging adults the opportunity to remain in their homes (more safely), and stay as independent as possible. Keeping up with this new technology is difficult, 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 The 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) telephone services? If you have Comcast or Verizon cable at home, chances are that you might also be using them for your (home) phone service. If that’s the case, you are likely are using a VOIP plan (just as we do with Vonage, another major VOIP provider). Many of the traditional medical alert system providers recommend checking with your home (VOIP) phone provider to see whether they offer local 911 (and other) services. So keep this in mind, and ask*. (*Note: The alert system providers will know about their compatibility with the major phone service providers.)
2. What is the range of my alert system? MOST of the major medical alert system providers have the following components included in their “systems”. A base station and a pendent of some kind (necklace – worn around the neck, belt clip, or wrist watch like device. The myHalo system even has a chest strap). MOST of the pendants need to communicate (wirelessly) with a base station that is connected to your home phone line. So, you need to know the range of that pendant to the base station. Usually this range covers most normal sized homes, and is in the neighborhood of 400-600 feet. After installation be sure to test out the range inside (and outside) the home.
3. Does someone install this for me, or do I do it myself? Many manufacturers have sales/marketing representatives that 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 is ahead of time! If all they do is send the alert system to you, make sure there is ample literature (on and off line) for assistance with set-up AND testing. 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 hand-held device that connects to AT&T Wireless for use outside the home (anywhere covered by AT&T). To use their pendant (small necklace) device around the home, you still need a land line however. Also, The Wellcore Personal Emergency Response System boasts the ability to interface with some cell phones to extend the range of their device outside 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 take advantage of. Frankly, I’ve found great service from call centers all over the world, and the only thing you need to be wary of 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’s good to know what other services can be included with the purchase of your services, so make sure you ask what’s 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 (gives me a headache even thinking about doing that again). So that in mind, I would encourage anyone making a decision on a particular device to ask; What happens if your system goes down? Does someone come out to fix it? Will they send you another one asap? Do you need to send the dysfunctional system back? etc. Also, one other point… when you have narrowed down your choice, read the fine print by looking up the terms-and-conditions of the particular provider 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 embedded into small devices which are saving lives everyday. These smart-systems can distinguish (in most cases) between when someone has actually fallen, and when someone has decided to sit down abruptly. “The big three” that (currently) offer automatic fall detection are Halo Monitoring Systems, Wellcore Personal Emergency Response, and Philips Lifeline with auto alert.
9. Am I purchasing these devices, or leasing them, or neither? Goes back to my prior suggestion about reading the fine print… Find out (ahead of time) whether the equipment is yours or not. What happens if you no longer require the equipment? What happens if you damage the equipment?
10. What is my total yearly cost? This gets down to “brass tax”… How much does this cost me each year (total cash outflow). Enough said.