What Is The Cost Of Medical Alert Systems
- Medical alert systems are devices with alarms, like smartwatches or stationary home devices, that when activated by the wearer or sensors can alert caregivers or a monitoring center that the user needs help.
- On average, a medical alert system costs $20-$60 a month, and there are two types: home-based and mobile.
- Bay Alarm, Medical Alert, MobileHelp and Medical Guardian are all highly regarded brands.
- Add-on features include a landline, cellular service, GPS tracking, auto fall detection, battery life, signal range tracking and a monitoring system, as well as other features like the ability to pair with health apps, heart rate monitoring, etc.
- Most of the major companies have different levels of coverage, from basic to more advanced options.
When it comes to getting a medical alert system, one of the first things you might think about is cost. No matter how important it is to have the system, the price is always an important factor. There are a lot of extra costs that could come with your new medical alert system, so it’s crucial to be aware of what these might be.
Installation, equipment, monthly fees, add-ons and any repairs or replacement will impact the overall cost.
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Our experts independently research and recommend products we believe provide value in the lives of our readers. We’ve collectively spent more than 1,700 hours conducting in-depth research on medical alert systems. To make our picks, we:
- Engaged in ongoing independent research
- Consulted with geriatricians and adult caregivers
- Mystery shopped the brands
- Surveyed medical alert system users
- Tested various medical alert systems
- Interviewed experts in the field
- Read hundreds of verified customer reviews from trusted third parties, such as Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports
Whether you’re shopping for a medical alert system for yourself or a loved one, you’re making a decision that could significantly impact the wearer’s wellbeing. These gadgets, which often come in the form of a smartwatch or stationary home device, can come in handy in the event of a fall or at the onset of a serious medical condition where assistance could be paramount to the user’s ability to survive. They also help facilitate individuals’ independence, while also ensuring that they can receive timely medical assistance if something should happen to them.
Still, whenever considering the purchase of a technological device, price is understandably an important factor for most. The good news is that there are many different medical alert systems on the market, plenty of which are very affordable and come with a slew of additional features that can further enhance their usability.
Why Are Medical Alert Systems So Important?
Every single second, an older American adult falls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), making this the leading cause of death for those above age 65 and the main reason elderly individuals wind up losing their independence. “The rapid response associated with medical alert systems is key to protecting our frail elderly,” according to Dr. Jim Dan, M.D., geriatric clinical advisor and member of the Senior Helpers Board of Directors, which is a national in-home senior care provider that helps people age gracefully in the comfort of their own homes. Medical alert systems include devices with alarms, like smartwatches and stationary home devices. Dr. Dan said these devices alert caregivers or a monitoring center for emergency help when activated by the wearer or via sensors.
The rapid response associated with medical alert systems is key to protecting our frail elderly.
Monitored Versus Unmonitored Medical Alert Systems
There are two main types of medical alert systems—unmonitored and monitored—both of which have proven to be incredibly helpful when an individual requires medical assistance. “Unmonitored medical alert systems immediately connect to 911 and send a paramedic to the location as soon as possible, regardless of the situation, whereas monitored alert systems connect to trained responders at a call center, who can then help determine next steps,” Dan explained.
Once these trained responders arrive on the scene, they can make informed play calls for the next steps, including whether or not the individual requires a paramedic or simply a caregiver or family member. “Both types of medical alert systems are intended to provide emergency support, no matter the time or place,” Dan added.
How Much Do Medical Alert Systems Cost?
On average, you can expect to pay somewhere between $20-$60 each month for a medical alert system. The cost largely depends on the amount and extent of features that your medical alert system includes. For example, some medical alert systems are super tech-savvy, such as smartwatch systems or in-home motion sensor devices, while others are simple pendant-shaped devices that are worn like a necklace and contain a button that can be pressed in the event of a medical emergency.
Home systems, such as those that are wall-mounted or physically stationed in your house, usually range between $20-$40 per month, while mobile options are typically between $10-$30 per month. However, many add-ons can make the expense significantly pricier, including installation, repairs, replacements and automatic costs. “One-time cost for a device is still one-time; however, recurring, indefinite costs with a subscription for a basic service, plus any add-ons, make it a substantive budget item, especially for fixed income folks,” Dan said.
It’s also worth noting that most medical alert systems have upfront equipment costs. While certain medical alert systems allow you to rent the equipment on a monthly or yearly basis, others require that you purchase all of the equipment initially, which can cost you upwards of $200.
There can be many factors that play a role in the cost of a medical alert system, so it helps to understand which features are being offered so that you can better determine your individual needs. Here’s a breakdown of some of the key features you’re likely to find in a medical alert system—and what you should know about each of them.
The first cost you’ll face is the installation fee. Most medical alert systems require an installation process that is usually performed by a professional from the company. Not every system requires you to pay for installation, but the ones that do could cost you $100 or more.
Some medical alert systems are considered plug-and-play systems, which means you unpack the box, plug it in, and have just a few extra setup steps before the panic button is ready to use. With these systems, you don’t need installation at all.
Some systems don’t require installation, but offer it just in case you need it. If it’s going to take a lot of hard work and effort to get the emergency response system or medical alert devices ready, you may want to pay the additional cost so you can make sure the system’s up and running as quickly as possible. You also may end up avoiding any kind of warranty that’s offered if you don’t take advantage of installation services from the company. Sometimes these installations are done by in-house technicians or done by a local contractor wherever you live.
Finally, some companies require installation services rather than recommending them. These are typically offered when installation is going to require more effort, or at least be intricate or difficult to understand. The costs for these services, however, can be quite expensive. Still, you’ll be able to rest assured that your system is installed properly and is going to work. There’s also usually a warranty on the installation in case something doesn’t work properly or gets damaged during the process of installation.
One-Time Cost: $0–$200
Base System And Accessories
The physical equipment includes the home base system (if your system uses one), the pendant/wristband, and any additional accessories that are included in the original price. This doesn’t include add-ons and extras that you can purchase at an additional cost. For some emergency response systems, there is no cost for these items and you get them included for free in the first month’s cost. These are generally the systems you rent rather than buy from the company, so the cost of the lease is part of the monthly cost (which we’ll explain more about a bit later in this article).
With systems you purchase, you may have to spend a little more. The average cost for the equipment itself is around $100, although different systems may cost more or less. Keep this initial cost in mind when you’re looking at medical alert systems. It’s a start-up cost you’ll need to factor into the price.
Don’t forget this is only a one-time cost and you won’t have to pay it again once you’ve set up the system. Some companies will allow you to pay the cost over several months as you pay your regular monthly bill, which can make payment easier.
One-Time Cost: $0–$100
Subscriptions are the guaranteed cost of your medical alert system. This cost will almost always be a monthly subscription service cost that depends on a lot of factors, including the system you choose and the specific upgrades you want. In this section, we’ll cover the usual monthly price without any add-ons or extra features.
Most medical alert systems offer various subscription packages that range in price. For the cheapest of plans, you’ll spend approximately $20 per month. For the more advanced or higher-cost plans, you’ll have a starting cost closer to the $40–$50 range.
Look at your current budget and think about how much you can afford each month. Once you do that, you’ll be able to narrow down which systems will be right for you. Then you’ll be able to decide which features each system provides you with and what you want within your budget.
Some systems provide you with only the bare essentials, like the landline service or cellular service, a base and a single pendant/wristband. Others may offer more features like fall detection, a lockbox, medication reminder, or access to doctors at any time. Remember, we’re talking about base fees at this point, which means the bare minimum plan on any system you get, not the upgraded plans that offer more equipment or features.
Here are some of the top contenders in the market of medical alert systems, and the highlights of what you should know about each.
If you’re looking for a medical alert system that offers GPS location tracking, this is a top one to consider. Four out of six of Medical Guardians’ systems include this type of tracking, which can come in handy for individuals looking for assistance on the go—not just when they are in their homes. They’re also integrated into a smartwatch-style device that users hardly notice. Another great feature is a portal that caregivers can access in order to monitor the user’s activity and location at all times.
Monthly Subscription Cost: From $29.95
With 24/7 monitoring, this is a great choice if you’re looking for an in-home medical alert system. While the monthly cost is average for this kind of system, they offer two free months plus 50 percent off fall detection if you choose to add it. Another perk is that they offer free equipment, free shipping, a free lockbox and no activation fee, which significantly cuts down on the costs associated with your purchase.
Their most basic plan, the MobileHelp Classic, offers a range of 1,400 feet from the base unit, which provides individuals with significantly more freedom than most at-home units. It also comes with a touchscreen tablet that has video capabilities, as well as telehealth abilities that allow you to communicate more effectively with your healthcare provider.
Monthly Subscription Cost: From $37.95
When it comes to on-the-go use, Bay Alarm Medical offers the most features to make your or your loved one´s everyday reality safer, including an in-care medical alert system with automatic crash detection included, a wearable smartwatch device, spouse monitoring and more. Of course, many of these features are add-ons that require additional costs; however, certain packages give you an expense break, especially if you bundle more than one plan, such as purchasing your in-home device with a GPS-enabled device.
Monthly Subscription Cost: From $19.95
There is also a plethora of add-ons that you can purchase for an additional fee. That includes automatic medication reminders or having a professional from the company call you for a monthly wellness check. It can also include fall detection at a much more affordable rate than competitors (just $5 per month). They also offer free spouse monitoring, which can come in handy if you’re in the market for multiple medical alert devices. Another important feature worth mentioning is that they have an app that you can download right to your smartphone to use their services, which puts you in touch with a trained operator and instantly gives them your location for dispatch assistance should you need it.
Monthly Subscription Cost: From $29.95
Out of all the medical alert systems out there, this may be the one you recognize first, as their popular advertisements have been gracing television screens for several decades. They provide 24/7 customer service and monitoring, and claim to field more than 2 million calls per year on average, saving at least one life every 11 minutes. One of their best offerings is a waterproof button that can be wall-mounted anywhere in your home—including your shower, which is the location of approximately two-thirds of all injuries, according to the CDC.
Monthly Subscription Cost: From $49.95
As with most purchases, there are always possible add-ons for medical alert systems, such as extra pendants, wellness checks, GPS location and activity tracking, medication reminders and automatic fall detection. You might also want an upgraded system that’s going to give you more dedicated support.
Make sure the add-on costs fall within your total monthly budget. Individual features can cost anywhere between $5–$20 per month.
Investing in a medical alert system gives you, as well as family members, the reassurance that you have access to every kind of emergency assistance available with just the push of a button.
When negotiating prices, some companies offer to throw in certain add-ons free of charge in order to earn your business. That’s why it’s always a good idea to inquire about what can be added to your plan on the front end.
Monthly Cost: $0–$50
Support, Repairs, And Replacement
Support is an incredibly important factor when purchasing something that has the potential to save your life. You should inquire whether or not the company selling a medical alert system offers 24-hour support and assistance, which is almost always the case.
It is also a good idea to ask about the support offered for repairs and replacements. That way, you won’t be charged a fee you weren’t expecting if your device needs repairs or replacement. Most brands come with warranty plans that range from one year to a lifetime. There can be quite a discrepancy in the offerings of these plans, so it’s important to ask before making your purchase. Some plans require you to pay $5 to lock in a price covering repairs and installations. Out-of-pocket costs for repairs and replacements can range from $20- $250, depending on the situation.
Cost As Needed: $0–$250
What if you decide to cancel your plan early? You might think you can just get a refund and walk away from the system, but that’s not the case with some. Many systems require you to give notice, which is a way of saying you’re locked into the system for at least an agreed upon length of time. For example, one medical alert company requires 30 days’ notice and doesn’t charge you a cancellation fee if you give them that notice. However, that means you’re giving them another month of payment when you didn’t want to. It’s not technically a cancellation fee, because you’re still getting service for that month, but it’s still paying for something you didn’t really want.
Other services don’t charge a cancellation fee at all, but they do charge “restocking fees” for the products that you return at the end of your use. These fees could cost around $50 just for the company to put your base and pendants back on the shelf for someone else to use when they sign up. Companies don’t consider that a cancellation fee either, but we do.
Finally, some companies don’t allow you to get any money back at all. These plans tell you that if you’ve prepaid for the system for any length of time, you have to use the system for that length of time or you lose the money you’ve paid. That can be expensive if you prepay for a quarter or a year and then decide you don’t like the system or no longer need it.
There are sometimes exceptions to this rule, as some companies will let you out of the contract if you prove that you’ve entered into a nursing home or other facility. In general, though, companies will try to keep your money. If you prepay for a decent length of time, you probably assume you’re going to get a better deal—and you will as long as you don’t cancel early.
One-Time Cost: $20–$50+
In all, you could be looking at monthly bills that exceed $100 a month if you’re not careful about the service you select and the add-ons you opt for, but you can get out of the monthly payment circle with only $20–$30 if you’re looking to save some money. Keep in mind, however, that additional costs and one-time fees can also start to add up and should be considered when you look at anything.
No matter how important it is to have the system, it’s equally important to make sure it fits your budget. That way, you can rest easy knowing you’re prepared for a medical emergency at an affordable price.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are several reasons why someone would want to buy a medical alert system, with the main ones being that you live alone, are at risk of falling or have fallen before, have a health condition, want to maintain your independence, or want to give yourself and your loved ones peace of mind. Dr. Dan explained, “Investing in a medical alert system gives you, as well as family members, the reassurance that you have access to every kind of emergency assistance available with just the push of a button.”
A medical alert system could be a potential lifesaver, so it’s important to consider the options available to you or a loved one, as well as any potential features that could come in handy (such as GPS tracking, auto fall detection, and heart rate monitoring, just to name a few). These devices are ideal for the elderly, as well as anyone who is handicapped or taking certain medication that could impair their vision or everyday functioning.
How We Wrote This Article
To find out what medical alert systems cost, we researched:
- The price of different alert systems, including subscription plans and added monthly fees
- The features that make medical alert systems more or less costly
- Warranties, contracts, and hidden fees of common medical alert systems
- Medical alert system deals