COVID-19 Update: Since the medical alert industry is considered to be “essential” during the COVID crisis, monitoring and customer service centers are still open and ready to help. To learn more about how a medical alert device can help keep you or your elderly loved one safe and connected during this pandemic, take a look at our list of essential products for seniors during COVID-19.

Medical alert systems are a simple and affordable solution for anyone who may need to call for help, making help buttons popular among seniors who want to remain as independent as possible without compromising their safety.

In the past, medical alert systems only worked if the user had an existing landline phone, and the coverage was limited. Today, users can find a number of medical alert systems that offer mobility outside the home, making it easier than ever to enjoy 24/7 medical alert coverage without limitations.

What’s the Difference Between In-Home and Mobile Medical Alert Systems?

Most landline-based medical alert systems have a range of 600 to 1200 feet, which is the maximum distance between the in-home base unit and the wearable panic button. This means users need to stay within range to ensure their help button works in an emergency, and the actual range may be reduced by interference from electrical devices, walls and in-home wiring.

Mobile medical alert systems don’t have the same range limitations as in-home landline systems do because mobile help buttons connect to wireless mobile phone networks.

How Do Mobile Medical Alert Systems Work?

Mobile personal emergency response systems all work off of existing mobile phone networks, and the mobile phone connection cost is included in the monitoring fee. Typically, on-the-go help buttons have a cellular SIM card along with a speaker and microphone, making mobile medical alert systems bigger than home help buttons but still small enough to be worn comfortably as a pendant, carried in a purse or placed on a belt loop.

A few medical alert companies offer two-piece medical alert systems that combine a handheld cellular transponder with a small, wearable wrist button or pendant that’s much lighter and smaller than an all-in-one mobile medical alert device. There are also a handful of medical alert smartwatches on the market that have built-in cellular service, and you can expect to see more watch-style mobile help buttons available in the coming years.

Where Can I Use a Mobile Medical Alert System?

While the actual service area varies between providers, most mobile medical alert systems offered in the United States include nationwide coverage on a major cellular phone network. This means that subscribers with a mobile personal emergency call button can travel anywhere in the country that cellular service is available.

It’s important to note that the availability of cell service may be limited in rural areas, so be sure to check coverage in your area before signing up for a mobile medical alert system. Signal strength varies between providers as well, which is why it’s a good idea to ask about the cell network that each medical alert company uses when looking for a mobile panic button.

Do Mobile Medical Alert Systems Cost More Than Other Help Button Systems?

Cellular-powered medical alert systems that offer mobility outside the home generally cost more than comparable in-home, landline-based medical alert systems. The price difference between in-home and mobile panic button systems is largely due to the added costs associated with the cellular service, which is included with the monitoring fees.

Many mobile medical alert systems also include GPS location tracking, a feature that allows the monitoring company to pinpoint the exact location of a subscriber in the event of an emergency. Other common features on mobile medical alert systems include a secure web portal that enables registered loved ones and caregivers to locate a subscriber, and automatic fall detection activates a call for help if the wearer suffers from a sudden fall.

Do I Need a Medical Alert System That Offers Mobility Outside the Home?

Whether or not you require a medical alert system that works outside of your home depends on your own personal habits and needs. Seniors who only require a help button for times when they’re at home alone likely won’t require the extra coverage provided by a mobile medical alert system, as most in-home systems offer adequate coverage inside the average house or apartment.

Seniors, people with disabilities, lone workers and others who are at an increased risk of suffering from a medical event or personal emergency while in the community may want to consider a mobile, cellular-equipped help button. These devices ensure that subscribers can call for help from virtually anywhere without the need to dial a cell phone.

Mobile medical alert systems that include GPS location tracking are often recommended for those living with memory loss issues, as these systems can help caregivers manage the risks associated with wandering.