What To Consider When Choosing a Medical Alert Company
As we get older, we need a little more help to stay safe in our homes. If you’re considering inviting a medical alert system and company into your home, then it’s time to start doing your research so you buy safely, securely, and stay protected.
This guide will walk you through some of the biggest considerations you will need to think about in order to be safe in your home. Medical alert systems and companies are a great line of defense and people put a lot of trust in their service. This means that the quality of the service is your utmost concern.
You can often determine the quality of a service by the reputation and certifications a company has. Ask your friends, neighbors, and anyone else who has a service to see what they like and what they don’t. Thankfully, the Internet can also connect you with users and reviews of most major alarm and medical alert programs.
This guide will help you to understand some of the questions to ask and what to value when discussing your options. Some of the most important features it reviews are the reputation of the company you’re working with, the key features each service must have, the costs and certifications you should look for, and hidden charges or bad payment policies you should avoid.
When in doubt, always ask the company you’re interested in. If they’re not happy to answer questions to your satisfaction, you likely won’t be happy with the service you get.
Now, let’s start looking at the important factors of home medical alert systems and company partners.
1. Company Information and Policies
First and foremost, you should research the companies who have products you are interested in. You want to find a partner with a good reputation for their products, service, and customer service. The more complaints a company has, the closer you should look into its claims of safety and service.
The Better Business Bureau is a great place to start because you can look at national complaints as well as those in your area. You should also read through our online reviews to make sure everything is on the up-and-up.
Check out the corporate history of the company as well as the services it offers. You should also look for information it posts online, such as blogs or guides. Companies with more-recent information are typically performing well and are spending money to improve their operations and expand, while those without recent information may be having issues.
You want a well-known company with a history of reliability so that you can ensure your system is going to be around for as long as you need it.
Surprisingly, cost isn’t always the best metric to judge things on. That’s why this guide lists it second. Cost is important because you should find something that fits well within your budget, but it is first important to narrow down the field to high-quality companies that provide excellent service.
When it comes to overall cost, you should look for something that is relatively inexpensive. Many systems will cost you between $1 and $2 per day, which is a good range. You should look for a $1 price point per day if you don’t want a lot of features and mostly need protection within your home. The $2 ceiling is great for companies that give you mobile access and coverage throughout the area where you live.
Going below $1 per day typically means you’re working with a company that will outsource much of its operations—mainly because they don’t charge enough to have their own call centers or hire their own staff. Going much farther than $2.50 to $3 might mean you’re paying for a company to go after high-level marketing or other services that don’t directly improve your coverage.
To evaluation the reputation and qualifications of your medical alert system company, it’s best to look for third-party certifications and ratings. One of the top certifications in this space is being UL Listed.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has developed safety and operational standards since 1894 and it is now an international operation that provides insight and safety science testing for many of your home’s goods.
You want valid, credible certifications for both the call centers and the devices that will be in your home.
UL certifications are typically seen as a gold-standard for the home medical alert system industry because they require high levels of reliability in service and overall safety offerings. Every company will promise that it is adequately prepared to handle your emergency, but a certification is a good way to double check that claim.
For call centers, you want the Central Station Alarm Association (CSSA) certification to be present for peace of mind. Its top level is the Five Diamond Central Station Certification and this is a very good sign for your potential partner. One thing that is especially good about the CSSA certification is that it requires call centers to go through inspections from third-party organizations such as UL.
Not all companies use call center staff that are trained as 911 operators. This training can definitely be of a great assistance. However, some are offering the same level of protection by adding in the ability to conference in a 911 operator to your emergency call. These conferencing options don’t add much time and virtually equivalent to the 911 service, but find what makes you comfortable and seek out that combination.
And remember, whenever you see a certification company on a website, it’s a smart idea to check out that process too. Not all certifications are created equal, and some companies have created their own certification programs to make products appear safer.
A smart option that many companies have begun to offer is a free trial of the system you’re interested in purchasing. By selecting a company with a free trial, you reduce your initial investment and are able to determine if you like a system before you have any contract that pushes you into a long-term payment plan.
Free trials also allow you to test the system to see how well it works in your home.
This option is highly recommended because it will help prevent you from being stuck with payments for a service that you can’t use or doesn’t provide any type of quality support.
For those of us on a fixed income, every trial and cancellation option you can get is a blessing.
Contact and Support
Not only do you need a company who constantly monitors your system, but you also need a partner who is quick to respond to service issues and the questions you may have.
Your best bet is to look for a company that offers 24/7 monitoring and 24/7 support. Technical assistance is just as important as medical assistance for these systems because any outage puts you at risk.
Does the service speak your language? It may seem silly to ask, but you want someone you can communicate with in an emergency, so get a company that can speak to you in your native tongue, no matter what that is.
If this is your first home medical alert system, you may not be 100% of what your needs are. Sometimes we have to see a system in action to properly understand what it does and determine if that’s what will best protect us.
With the move to mobile devices and support that relies on 3G and 4G networks, you also have the added worry that your system may not get a signal inside or outside of your home. Lots of different things can interfere with these signals, from the building materials in your home to the trees that surround your favorite walking path.
Because of these concerns, you’ll want to work with a company that offers some sort of cancellation policy. You don’t want to get stuck with a system that doesn’t work in your area, home, or with your lifestyle. The safest option to control your costs is to work with a medical alert system that allows you to cancel at any time and refunds you any unused portion of time that you’ve paid for.
That is also an important consideration for those purchasing a system as part of an end-of-life care option. You don’t want a service like this to become a major hassle when you need to cancel and handle all of the other arrangements.
It’s also a smart move to ask companies about their equipment return policies. Sometimes these have fees and other times you’ll just need to pay to ship the equipment back. Having this information will help you budget for future expenses or know what to expect if things don’t work out.
The Hard Sell
The final thing to take into consideration is how the company tries to sell you when you’re shopping. Avoid companies that use hard-sell tactics to press you into getting something.
Among the worst hard-sell tactics are home sales visits, some of which come unannounced. This is an effort to put pressure on older Americans and intimidate them into a sale that they are not necessarily ready to make.
Some companies operate on a national sales basis, while others use local affiliates to make their sales in each region. If you’re looking for more information or want to find results for which company has an office in your area, add your city’s name to your search engine in order to get local information. This will increase the reliability of the information you have for your area, but it may also increase the number of home visits that agents and affiliates try to push.
Payment and Discounts
One thing to check is the payment option for the company. Many offer direct bank account withdrawal or automatic payments, but check to make sure they have the support and payment option you want.
Don’t go with an account that you aren’t comfortable with, because it will not provide as much support or as good of a sense of well-being as you can likely get with a company who works with your preferences.
You also want to check the discounts offered by companies you like. Many offer military or AARP benefits and discounts, so it’s always worth it to ask and save where you can.
Final Company Thoughts
The last thing to think of for the company running your service is to consider how good you feel about it. You want to have a sense of peace and calm for its ability to provide service and answer your questions. If you don’t like it’s answers for things like ‘How do I set up the service?’ or others, keep looking.
If you have further questions, reach out via phone, email, social media, and more. If you can’t become comfortable, move on.
2. Use in Your Home
What Is Included?
The first thing to consider when looking at your home personal medical system and company is to see what types of devices are offered in each package and if these fit your lifestyle.
The top things you want to consider are battery life and mobility for your needs.
In the event of a power outage, you want a high battery life to ensure that you’re protected. Many of these devices will use landlines or cellular networks, so that connection is secure when the power goes out. The higher the battery life of your base unit and any pendants/mobile devices, the longer you can be protected during a storm or other power outage.
A bare minimum you should consider is 24 hours, but systems that last for multiple days should definitely get a higher consideration from you.
What If You Can’t Answer?
Perhaps the most important question for you to ask about the service is: “What happens if I can’t answer the call or pendant notification?”
Systems operate very differently and will send responders in different situations. Find what you feel is comfortable and go with those options.
A few things to keep in mind are:
- Do they offer help for first responders to get in contact with you?
- Do they offer lockboxes or other things to give a first responder a key so they don’t break down your door in the event of an emergency?
- Do they provide first responders with your medical information, especially allergies, conditions, and medications, in the event of an emergency?
Ask these questions and seek a smart answer that makes you feel the best. You want to be safe and feel safe, so your partner must provide both.
Where Does It Work In and Around Your Home?
After you’ve found a company that offers consistently long-lasting devices, you should take an assessment of how mobile you are. If you’re more active, you’ll need a device that can follow you more places; or if you’re less active, you can opt for a device that adds better coverage in your home and has a speaker or price you prefer.
New technology has allowed companies to put two-way speakers into the pendants and watches in their programs feature. That adds a lot of safety within your home, but you’ll want to make sure you have more than enough space to connect your pendant to the base station.
If you’re a very active person, you might want to consider one of the options that includes a mobile device support that has its own power supply and connects to the network through a 3G or 4G network, These don’t rely on a base station to call for help or to talk with your emergency responder—some models even use GPS in the device to locate you. This can be great if you’re still able to get around and talk long walks or head to the mall for a little exercise.
Beyond the exterior, be sure to test the interior of your home. Walk through every room, especially if you have multiple floors, and test the device to ensure that it can connect.
If you’re still looking to buy, read product reviews and see how well people say it connects to the platform. There’s little reason for consumer to lie about the success or failure of products, so these reviews can be a big help.
Shower and Bath Safety
Most falls happen in the bathroom because the surfaces are usually slick and stepping up out of the bathtub or off of the toilet is a prime way to become off-balance. This means that your medical alert system needs to provide you with adequate range for your bathroom.
Another concern of the bathroom is that the door is usually closed when we’re in there, so can the system hear you through a closed door? This may make some options with two-way pendants a little safer. Muffled sounds through a door mean you may not get the right help you need or that an ambulance could be dispatched if the system has an error or an alert is triggered by accident.
Along with the closed door, your system may have vulnerabilities in the bathroom related to the specific activity of bathing. Systems that are not designed to be worn while showering or taking bath may potentially put your emergency help button out of reach. If you must take it off and then slip getting out of the bathtub or shower stall, you may not be able to get your button to call for help; also, it’s fall detection system would be useless in this case if the device is not waterproof.
One feature that is popping up more is regular check-ins from your medical alert company. These help to make sure that you’re okay and that everything is working.
At minimum, you want a company that asks you to check the service each week—and reaches out to you if you don’t check in. For a best-case scenario, find a company who is willing to check in with you, test your system remotely, and reach out to make sure that you’re okay and that you feel comfortable with the system.
Most devices work on a battery power, which can either be charged through a base station or must be replaced. For batteries, you should look for options that have the longest-lasting battery—that includes both those that are rechargeable and those that have to be replaced.
Rechargeable batteries are not always the best bet if they have a short lifespan because you may not remember to charge them. You don’t want to lose service tomorrow if you forget to set it up when you lay down for a nap.
Beyond getting something with a longer battery—the closer you can get to years of service, the better—you also want to check that the company provides information to you in the event that a battery gets low.
Many companies have built in battery warnings and some will even call you through the base station to let you know that the battery is low. The more warnings, the better. An added bonus is if the company will send you a battery replacement for free. This is always a great, great option because it almost always comes with a step-by-step guide to help you properly replace the battery.
Reviewing Your Options
As you do your research, it’s smart to look at the available websites and services that have also provided a list of reviews and information on the companies you may want to partner with.
Your best option is to use a review website that bases its information on customer reviews. By accessing a service that reviews and ranks services, you’ll be able to find much of the information that is often hidden on a company’s own website. Services that provide information but aren’t selling products also tend to be reliable and give you the best data to make an informed decision.
Take your time with this decision so you can choose wisely and safely. Remember, if a company makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s okay to keep looking. Find a company that treats you like a friend with a great safety net.