Medical Alert Systems Reviews
Best Medical Alert Systems For Seniors
Medical Alert Systems with Auto Fall Alert Detection
Philips Lifeline Medical Necklace
Home Medical Alarm systems
Medical Alert Devices

FTC: How To Shop For A Medical Alert System

The FTC has published an article explaining how medical alert systems can be helpful to seniors in case of emergencies. Let's look into some of these tips and advice brought up by the FTC.

If you are an elderly person who live alone, or if you have elderly parents who live alone, who are you going to summon if you need help when medical emergencies happen? A medical alert system, also known as a personal emergency response system (PERS) can be helpful in these situations.

According to the FTC's medical alert systems article, these are systems that comprise of parts. The first is a small SOS radio transmitter button. When it is pressed, it triggers and alert and connects your home phone to an emergency response center. There are dispatchers on call at these emergency response centers that will speak with the user in distress. They will then assess the situation and dispatch appropriate help as the emergency calls for.

These medical alert systems can be rented, purchased, or leased from the many providers of such systems out there. There are national companies, local distributors, hospitals and social service organizations that offer these services. You can also find lots of information about the various systems, features and costs online.

Most insurance companies, Medicaid or Medicare will not pay for these personal emergency response systems. However, for low income seniors, a few hospitals or social service agencies may be willing to pay for part of the costs.

The FTC's article provides a number of shopping tips for users who are looking into such systems. Below are some of the tips listed and additional tips and explanations provided by the staff at

FTC tip: Is the monitoring center open 24/7? For the better monitored medical alert systems, 24/7 monitoring round the clock, every day of the year, including the holidays are made available to users. However, this is not something to take for granted. When reviewing various systems, make sure to inquire about this before you sign up.

FTC tip: What kind of training do staff receive? This is something to a pay attention to as you assess a service. When an emergency happens, you want to make sure that you are in good hands. Some companies outsource their call center operations to outside firms. That in itself does not necessarily mean the service will be poor. However, it is important to understand what kind of training the monitoring center dispatchers have to work with medical alarms. For example, Lifestation has an in-house monitoring center. Their agents must go through and pass a 6 week training program.

FTC tip: What’s the average response time, and who gets alerted? Most good personal emergency response systems list an average response time of under 30 seconds or 45 seconds. Sometimes, the calls are answered a lot sooner. With the better systems like Philips Lifeline or Bay Alarm Medical, users are generally satisfied with the quick response time.

The people who get alerted will depend on the circumstances of the situation. When an account is first set-up, the user will include a list of emergency numbers in case of emergencies. This can include family, neighbors, relatives, friends, doctors and other caregivers. Local emergency services and 911 are also possible contacts in case of emergencies.

FTC tip: Will I be able to use the same system with other response centers if I move? What if I move to another city or state? While some medical alert systems focus on local areas, there are a number that will serve clients nationally. That means that if you do move, it will not be a problem. In any case, you want to be aware of the cancellation policies as well. Many systems now offer month-to-month services without long term contracts. If you are moving and no longer need their services, you always have the option to cancel.

FTC tip: What’s your repair policy? What happens if I need a replacement? With most rented systems, most companies will accept the malfunctioning equipment and send over a replacement. Still, this is a good question to ask before you commit to any system. If you are buying the equipment outright, this is sometime you need to be extra careful with.

FTC tip: What are the initial costs? What costs are ongoing? What kind of services and features will I get? When you are signing up for a new system, the last thing you want is to be burdened with a high set-up cost that is non-refundable. Some systems like Philips Lifeline or Life Alert require set-up fees. If you would rather not take the risks, other quality systems like Bay Alarm Medical or Lifestation do not require any installation fees.

The cost of most basic medical alarm systems comprising the 3 basic components of a radio transmitter (emergency button), base console unit and monitoring service should be under $40 a month. If you need additional features like extra buttons, voice extension boxes or medical dispensing, there will be additional costs.

If you take into consideration the above advice offered by the FTC when choosing a medical alert system, you should be able to find a good one that meets your needs and budget. Don't just sign-on with the first medical alert system that you think is good. Try to comparison shop and look into the factors described above before deciding. If you need more help, you may also want to check out the Medical Alert Systems FAQs page.