Medical alert systems are designed to give seniors the peace of mind that comes from knowing they can call for help anywhere and anytime. With the simple push of a button, worn on a lanyard or a watch-style wrist strap, medical alert subscribers are connected with an emergency call center operator that can contact neighbors, family members or first responders immediately.

The rising number of seniors who want to remain independent and age in place in their home or a community setting has led to a dramatic increase in the number of medical alert companies. While all of these businesses offer similar services, there are distinct differences in the devices, service options and coverage areas.

Sorting through all of these differences, price plans and options can be overwhelming — that’s why our team of senior care experts have prepared in-depth comparisons to help you select the right medical alert system for your needs and budget. In this guide we look at Bay Alarm Medical and GreatCall Lively.

Side By Side ComparisonBay Alarm MedicalGreatCall Lively  
Up-Front Equipment$9.95 shipping (free shipping with semiannual plans)$49.99 plus a $9.99 shipping fee
Monthly Monitoring$19.95-$59.95$24.99 - $39.99
Activation Fee$0$35
ContractNo contracts--Billed month-to-monthMonth-to-month
Optional Monthly Add-On Services+$10/month for 4G/LTE connection for in-home medical alert system
+$5/month protection plan
+$3/month wall button (each)
+$3/month roommate/spouse medical alert button
-$0-$5/month caregiver tracking app (included in preferred and pr
Water-Resistant Wearable DevicesPendant and wristbandPendant and wristband are IPX7 rated immersion in up to 3.3' of water for up to 30 minutes
ConnectionLandline or cellular (AT&T network)Cellular (Verizon)
2-Way Voice CommunicationThrough in-home base unit or mobile pendantThrough pendant or Bluetooth-linked smartphone (Lively Wearable)
Range (From in-home base unit for landline service)Up to 1000'Within 150' of Bluetooth-linked smart phone (Lively Wearable)
Battery lifeIn-home call button battery is non-rechargable--Battery rated for 5 years
Battery in fall detection button rated for 2 years
Battery in 4G/LTE button lasts up to 5 days
Up to 6 months for Lively Wearable--Powered by a user-replaceable, non-rechargable lithium coin battery
Up to 80 hours per charge (Lively Mobile Plus device)
Fall Detection+$10 per monthIncluded in monthly monitoring fee
GPS LocatorIncluded in On-the-Go and On-the-Road devicesIncluded in both devices
Coverage Away From HomeIncluded in On-the-Go and On-the-Road devicesYes - when in Verizon cell service area
24/7 USA Call CenterTwo call centers located in Utah and IdahoYes
Wireless wall buttons
PIN-protected lockbox
Extra medical alert buttons
Bella Charms (for pendants without fall detection only)

Bay Alarm Medical Overview

Bay Alarm Medical is a U.S. medical alert company based in California that offers a variety of medical alert devices and emergency call systems geared towards users of all ages. The company consistently receives positive reviews from subscribers who are happy about the low monthly fees, user-friendly devices and great customer service.

As with most medical alert providers, Bay Alarm offers landline and cellular-based systems with features, such as GPS location tracking and fall detection. What sets Bay Alarm Medical apart is their newly-released Splitsecnd device, a vehicle plug-in unit that combines advanced crash detection technologies with traditional medical alert emergency response service, creating the world’s first in-vehicle medical alert system. This device is geared towards older drivers as well as new drivers, commuters, and anyone who may need to drive in inclement weather or unfamiliar surroundings.

Pros of Bay Alarm Medical:

  • Established U.S. company
  • Lifetime warranty of all LifeFone units with a no-charge replacement service
  • No activation, shipping or up-front device fees; service can be cancelled at any time without penalty
  • Free monitoring for another adult in the same home
  • Call monitoring technicians are fully certified as emergency dispatchers
  • Users can add their choice of contacts who emergency dispatchers call before contacting fire, police or medics
  • The only medical alert system worldwide to offer an in-car, GPS-enabled medical alert system with automatic crash detection
  • Services available in dozens of languages through a third-party translation service

Cons of Bay Alarm:

  • Costs can be difficult to understand and are not clearly outlined on the company website
  • Optional upgrades can quickly increase the total monthly service costs

GreatCall Lively Overview

GreatCall Lively is owned and operated by Best Buy, and products include the well-advertised Jitterbug line of basic, senior-friendly cell phones. GreatCall offers two waterproof medical alert devices, the GreatCall Lively Mobile Plus and the Lively Wearable. The GreatCall Lively Mobile is a stand-alone medical alert device connected to the Verizon mobile network, while the Lively Wearable is a Bluetooth-enabled wrist or pendant-mounted button that works with late-model Android and Apple smartphones.

GreatCall offers three levels of service starting at $24.99 per month. The basic service includes 24/7 monitoring by IAED-certified emergency call operators, while enhanced services include access to GreatCall Link, a mobile app. The preferred service package gives subscribers access to a registered nurse or board-certified physician through the Urgent Care service.

Pros of GreatCall:

  • GreatCall devices are fully waterproof
  • The GreatCall Lively Mobile device includes GPS and cellular connection
  • $25 referral credit through Refer-a-Friend program
  • GreatCall’s 5Star Urgent Response agents are IAED certified and trained in CPR
  • Multilingual service provided through a third-party translation company
  • Urgent Care service gives subscribers instant access to a doctor or registered nurse
  • Service for the GreatCall Lively Mobile device is provided on the Verizon cellular network

Cons of GreatCall:

  • Fall detection feature has been unreliable, leading to a complete recall of all GreatCall Lively Mobile devices in mid-2019
  • Subscribers must pay for shipping and activation
  • To use the Lively Wearable, subscribers must have a late-model smartphone with data service and a compatible Android or iOS operating system, and the phone must be kept with the subscriber at all times
  • Service on the GreatCall Lively Mobile device may be unavailable where Verizon cell service is poor

Pricing Comparison

Pricing for Bay Alarm Medical starts at $19.95 per month and there are no activation or shipping fees. By comparison, GreatCall pricing starts at $24.99, and subscribers must pay a one-time activation fee and shipping costs. With GreatCall Lively, subscribers buy the medical alert devices, while use of devices is included in the cost of most Bay Alarm Medical plans.

Our Pick

While each of these medical alert systems offer comparable devices and monitoring services, there are some important differences in terms of company reputation and reliability. Due to the fact that one of the two GreatCall devices, the Lively Mobile Plus, was recalled in mid-2019 due to unreliable fall detection, we recommend against subscribing to this service until there’s proof of vast testing with exceptional results.

We do like the fact that GreatCall offers optional Urgent Care service to connect users with a registered nurse or physician. We also like that the GreatCall Lively Mobile Plus devices have cellular service built-in, so there is no need for users to carry a smart phone or a second device.

By comparison, Bay Alarm Medical has consistently provided reliable service and high-quality devices that perform as expected. They also offer a wide range of price plans to fit most budgets, and the innovative in-car unit may be a good choice for senior drivers.

Compare More Medical Alert Systems

Click on the links below to read about Medical Alert system comparisons.