One of the most important factors in choosing a medical alert system is choosing the medical alarm provider. The system, as in the physical equipment, is important, as it needs to work properly and the person using it must understand how it works and be comfortable with using it. It is no good having the most advanced technological equipment however, if the medical alert provider does not provide the service which is required.
Medical alarms are used for a variety of reasons, but mainly to keep the infirm, the physically challenged and the elderly safe whilst still affording them a certain amount of independence, especially in their home environment. Since the advent of the first medical alert system, many more people have been able to remain in their own homes for longer and without the expense of paying someone to be with them around the clock because they have the security of knowing that help from the medical alert provider is just the press of a button away.
In the old days, a medical alert was merely a bracelet or a necklace which was worn by somebody who was allergic to something or had a particular medical condition. Because of the small size of the necklace or bracelet not much information could actually be inscribed, so most of the info was kept on record at a repository which had a 24/7 contact number. It was then left up to the first responder or the medical personnel to contact the medical alarm provider in order to find out more medical information.
Although there are still those types of medical alert equipment, there are also many others in the form of more modern bracelets, necklaces and even watches. Some of this jewelry contains similar information inscribed on it and others just have an ID and a number which can be phoned for further information. Medical alert jewelry has gone digital these days and much more information can be transferred virtually immediately, including x-rays, test results etc.
The type of medical alerts or medical alarms we are talking about here though, are not the jewelry, they are medical alarm systems which are used in the home, either by the elderly or those who are physically challenged in some way or the other; people who can live alone but are in danger of falling or having another kind of medical emergency such as a stroke, heart attack, epileptic fit, or something else for which they may need medical assistance in a hurry.
There are different types of medical alert systems, which you will get from a medical alarm provider. The general idea is that these systems are connected to a 24/7 monitoring center; when an emergency occurs the person who receives the alert will perform a set of pre-determined actions, which could include contacting the person who set off the alarm, contacting emergency personnel and dispatching them to assist the client, and contacting another pre-programmed number, which is usually the next of kin, to advise them of the emergency and any steps taken.
Types of Medical Alarm Systems
Although most medical alarm systems are basically the same, and work on the same premise, there are a few different types:
- The Basic Medical Alert System – this is a system which comes with a base station which is connected to a land line and comes with either one or two portable “emergency buttons” in the form of either a necklace or bracelet. When the button is activated the wearer can talk to somebody at the monitoring center and request assistance.
- A Mobile System – this system can be used without the need for a land line and works inside or outside by means of Cellular/GPS Tracking. The user also gets a base station, portable wrist buttons and/or necklace, a charger, and a mobile device.
- Fall Alert Alarms – these are alarms which can detect a fall and automatically contact the monitoring center without the need for the person who fell to push a button. This is done via tilt-mechanism. These medical alert fall detectors came about as it was found that many elderly who fall do not press the button either because they are not conscious, are too embarrassed or are too confused from the fall.
- Total Protection Plan – these plans include all the usual equipment but also include monitoring for fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.
As you can see from the above, even though the basics are the same, there are various levels and models of medical alerts which can be accessed, and it will be up to you to decide which medical alert system and medical alarm provider will best suit your or your elder’s needs.
Types of Medical Alarm Providers
- Hospital Programs – these are programs which are operated by volunteers. Philips Lifeline is a good example.
- Partial Service Companies – This type of medical alarm provider only takes care of the sales and marketing side of providing medical alerts. They may also install and service the equipment. The monitoring of the equipment is contracted out to a third party.
- Full Service Companies – This is the best type of medical alarm provider as they provide the medical alert equiptment, install it, train you on how to use it, perform periodic testing to ensure the equipment is working optimally, and service it themselves. These companies also do 24/7 monitoring.
- Reseller/Marketing only – this type of company only markets the product and service and do not supply anything themselves.
Now that you know a bit more about the different types of medical alert systems that are available and the various kinds of medical alert providers, it is time for you to make a choice as to which system and which type of service would best suit you or your loved one.
First, if the system is not for you, speak to the person who will be using it and get their input, as you may find that they will refuse to use it if they feel that they were not consulted, or if they do not understand how to use it, and then it will just be money wasted. Have a good look at the particular circumstances and decide what type of system would best suit the circumstances.
Once you have decided on the type of system that you all agree would be the best fit it is time to get on the internet and do some further research into which medical alarm provider can offer you what you want at the most affordable price. Remember, though, this is a vital function so it may not always be the best thing to go for the cheapest deal. You also need to be wary of the charlatans who will try to take your money and not deliver the service you need.
How to Choose a Medical Alarm Provider
In this section we will attempt to provide you with the best information that is available in order to make it as easy as possible for you to choose a medical alarm provider that will provide you with all the protection that is needed and complete peace of mind as to you or your loved one’s safety.
The following are some important factors that you should bear in mind when making your choice:
- Does the medical alarm companies operate the monitoring center themselves? If this service is outsourced it means that the medical alarm provider has no control of the quality of the service that you receive, and that service is what is paramount!
- If you cannot hold the medical alert provider responsible for slack service this will cause untold problems, so it is definitely important that the provider also monitors themselves.
- Are there sufficient operators to handle the emergency call so that one can call the EMS whilst another remains on the line with the person having the emergency?
- Does the emergency call go to a monitoring center or directly to 911? It is far better that the call is picked up by a monitoring center so that the right type of assistance can be dispatched, as the center will have all the relevant details including medical history.
- Will the operator at the monitoring center automatically contact emergency services if they cannot get hold of the person once the alarm has been activated?
- Does the monitoring center also contact the next of kin in case of an emergency? This is important so that your relative will know that they will not be alone, and so that you can meet them at hospital or get to their home as soon as possible.
- Does the company provide access to customer service and technical support in addition to 24/7 monitoring? Although most equipment rarely fails, you do not want to have a customer service line which is not manned 24/7.
- Does the company perform regular checks of the equipment, or is there at least an automatic self-test that the equipment does weekly?
- What is the company policy regarding repairs to and/or replacement of equipment?
- Do they offer good training for their operators?
- Does the medical alarm provider offer a warranty on the equipment?
Service and Reliability
Cost and Contract Details
- What is the monthly payment? This should be around $1 per day. A medical alarm provider that charges much less than that cannot offer the service that is needed and one that charges much more is just ripping you off.
- What is the cancellation policy? Do not sign with a company which expects you to pay penalties or return shipping costs if you need to cancel suddenly.
- What are the minimum payment requirements? Can you cancel when you want to? Sometimes no matter the good intentions, your elderly relative will just not “get with the program” of using a medical alarm, and it seems silly to have to continue to pay for a service that is not being used, or that expects you to pay for at least 3-6 months before you can cancel.
- Are you sure that you know all the costs? Watch out for companies who have hidden charges.
- Does the medical alarm provider that you are interested in have a track record? It is always better to go with a company that has been in the business for a while at least, because that would mean that they are trustworthy.
- You can check how good their service is and whether there are any complaints against the company by visiting the Better Business Bureau.
- Most providers who have been around for quite a few years will also offer a 30 trial period or a 30 day money-back deal.
CSAA Five Diamond Certified
- CSAA is an acronym for the Central Station Alarm Association.
- The CSAA has been in existence since 1950.
- Since there are no laws regulating the medical alarm industry, most of the better medical alarm providers seek certification from outside organizations, as this attests to the fact that they maintain good standards.
- The CSAA is one of the professional organizations which are used for certification purposes.
- The Central Station Alarm Association only works with FM Approved and UL-Listed central monitoring facilities.
- One of the main goals of the CSAA is the development of industry standards in order to ensure that central station performance levels are optimal.
- A medical alarm provider can only register their monitoring center with CSAA if they meet their criteria, which includes being FM Approved by Factory Mutual Research Corporation or being UL-Listed by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
- A medical alarm provider needs to adhere to very strict guidelines and also invest a considerable amount in order to qualify to be rated by either of the above-mentioned agencies, and also agree to continuous inspections.
- This means that being rated by one or both of these agencies in order to join CSAA as a member shows commitment and high standards.
- The CSAA Five Diamond Certification program displays the commitment by the medical alarm provider to serving the public and the local authorities.
- The CSAA Five Diamond Certification must be renewed annually, which means that the medical alarm provider cannot slack off once they have received certification but need to maintain and upgrade the performance of their monitoring center operators.
So, if you pay heed to the above recommendations when assessing which type of medical alarm and which medical alarm provider you should use, then you will be sure to choose the best. This means that you can be assured that you or your loved one will be safe and you can stop worrying that help will not be forthcoming in case of an emergency.