New mobile medical alert systems are dramatically improving the protection offered to active older adults. However, the benefits of a mobile medical alert system, which offer protection in and outside the home, over a cellular phone, aren't always clear.
Why not just get a cell phone and call 911 in the event of a fall or medical emergency? Why carry a second device, let alone pay an additional fee for a monitoring center when you can call 911 for free?
The questions are valid. In fact, there are quite a few overlaps between both technologies, but it's important to know the differences so you can make the right decision for your individual situation. Here are some of the biggest difference between mobile medical alert systems and cell phones that we see:
Advantage of Mobile Medical Alert Systems
1. Monitoring Center
When you press the help button on a mobile medical alert system, you speak with the monitoring center first, they then either call emergency responders, caregivers listed on your contact list, or both. There are several advantages to calling in to a monitoring center:
- The monitoring center can call emergency responders on your behalf, but also inform family members of the emergency;
- The monitoring center can inform emergency responders of any medical conditions, allergies or medications you're currently taking;
- The monitoring center can help assess if an ambulance is required or not, avoiding unnecessary emergency room visits, hospital admittance and the associated expense.
2. GPS - Quick & Accurate Location Tracking
If you're in an apartment building and call 911 from a cell phone and you're unable to speak, a 911 operator will not know which apartment you are in. On the other hand, a medical alert company will have your address on file to provide emergency personnel.
While 911 relies on cell towers to locate you, many mobile medical alert devices with GPS use multiple technologies to track your location, instead of relying on only one. Many newer medical alert devices with GPS use 4G technology, along with satellite GPS, WiFi pinging and audio pinging for more accurate, consistent and faster location detection.
3. Easy to Find Help Button
We can't express this enough. An emergency button is only good if it's within easy reach. The biggest risk we see with cell phones is that we don't carry them with us everywhere we go at all times.
For example, if you're cooking in the kitchen, you'll likely place your phone on the counter top while you're busy chopping, dicing and spicing. If you fall and you're immobile on the floor, it's out of reach. If you're taking a shower, you'll leave your phone by the sink or bed, again out of reach if you slip and fall. If you're changing clothes, you'll place your phone on your night stand. Again, if you fall it's out of reach.
Unlike a cell phone, a mobile medical alert pendent is around our neck at all times, whether you're taking a shower, changing clothes, cooking, going for a jog or taking the dog for a walk.
4. Easy to Use Help Button
We like and recommend simplicity. In an emergency medical situation, even the most technologically savvy among us might experience confusion, disorientation, poor vision or compromised dexterity. Finding the home screen, typing in your password and dialing or pressing the emergency help button on a cell phone can be difficult during stressful situations.
With a medical alert system, you don't even have to see the pendent to feel for it and press the help button, making it a much easier to use and safer device than a cell phone in an emergency situation such as a fall, broken hip or concussion.
5. Automatic Fall Detection
While some cellular smart phones offer automatic fall detection, most do not and those that do tend to be very expensive. Most mobile medical alert systems come with an option for automatic fall detection, taking away the fear of falling an being unable to call for help due to unconsciousness or injury.
Moreover, the mobile medical alert systems GPS will allow the monitoring center to send help to your exact location, even if you're unable to speak.
6. Long Lasting Battery
Mobile medical alert systems have come a long way. While earlier versions could last a day on a single battery charge, many can now last 5 days or more without being re-charged. Cell phones on the other hand need recharging every day or two.
7. Shower & Bath Use
You can bring almost all mobile medical alert systems with GPS into the shower, bathtub or swimming pool. Not so with a cell phone. Considering a significant number of falls take place in the shower, water resistance is a significant technological advantage medical alert systems have over cell phones.
8. Lock Box
A lock box is a box that sits outside your front or back door, and holds a key to enter your home. The box is opened with a code. What's the advantage of a lock box for a senior? Well instead of the paramedics, police or firemen breaking down your front door if you're unable to open it, the monitoring center will provide the code to the lock box to 911 so they can open your door without causing any damage.
Moreover, should you ever forget your key and get locked out, you can simply press your medical alert button and agents in the monitoring center can provide you with the code to the lock box to help you re-gain access to your home.
Cell Phone Medical Alert Systems
There are hybrid solutions, like cell phone medical alert systems, such as those offered by greatcall's Jitterbug smart and flip phones that come with an Urgent Response app and monitored service when you press the button from your cell phone. The challenge we have with both those options, is the difficulty of navigating a phone and finding the emergency response button in the midst of the confusion and stress of a medical emergency. Moreover, neither of those phones comes with fall detection, which we think is essential.
Hope that helps! Let us know if you have any advice or experiences you'd like to share!