Testing Medical Alert Devices

A medical alert device is supposed to get emergency help at the push of a button. But how well do these gadgets work?

Our friends at Checkbook Magazine tested eleven medical alert devices and hit the panic button 290 times over a two-week span.

Checkbook said it found some "disturbing deficiencies".

"A big problem with these devices is that they delay response that you need. When you press the button you have to wait for a monitoring company to answer your call," said Kevin Brasler, Executive Editor of Consumers' Checkbook.

Checkbooks test also found with most companies, it took an average of one minute or more to get a call answered

"Sometimes in our tests it took more than three minutes for them to answer our calls, he added.

"Once they answer your call you have to communicate your problem to that person. Then that person is going to call 911 for you," said Brasler.

Checkbook also found some false alarms they said often triggered by fall detection features.

"EMS was showing up at our office doors in the middle of the night because they had been told there was an emergency," he said.

Brasler also added, "we got false alarms when our receptionist just moved the box from one desk to another desk".

According to Checkbook 911 Centers have become sick of false alarm calls from these devices.

"They treat those calls as non-emergency calls," he said.

Checkbook also found that finding your location was another weakness.

"They're really not able to pinpoint your location in the same way let's say Lyft Uber or Google Maps can," said Brasler.

Checkbook said the worst performer in its test was the LifeFone At-Home & On-the-Go GPS Voice in Necklace, which is also the most expensive model it tested at $472 for the first year.

Checkbook's test found the average wait time to connect to the LifeFone call center was one minute twenty seconds. The longest they waited was nearly 3 minutes.

LifeFone told Action News "it takes issue with the way Checkbook tested response time. It also says its fall detection system has a false-alarm reduction feature and its product "ensures that we are accurately dispatching. The company also said for those who need it, a medical alert system offers critical, life-saving benefits versus calling 911 directly."

The model Checkbook rated the best was the Great Call, Lively Mobile.

Brasler said, "they were the fastest in terms of response time."

"But better still, once you press the button for them you have the option of calling their monitoring company in case it's not an emergency or calling 911 directly through the device," he added.

Checkbook also said the Great Call - Lively Mobile was also reasonably priced at $230 for the first year.
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