According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by a fall and at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures annually. Worse, the fear of falling often causes older adults to limit their activities and social engagements outside of the home. It can even cause seniors to question the safety of continuing to live independently. Medical alert systems can alleviate these fears and provide the security that older adults need to live fully independent lives.

These systems combine equipment and 24/7 monitoring services to provide seniors and others with immediate access to emergency help at home or away. Medical alert system services can let you confidently go about your life knowing that if an emergency should arise, help is readily available.

Medical alert systems allow seniors to instantly connect to loved ones, neighbors, and emergency services. Devices vary from residential equipment to portable wearable buttons. Some provide advanced features such as GPS and automatic fall detection that offer protection even if the customer is unable to push a button or otherwise communicate.

As these personal safety systems become increasingly popular, there are more companies providing services. Unfortunately, the large number of options combined with marketing language that’s often confusing can make choosing the right medical alert system a daunting task.

To help make that choice a little easier, we’ve done all the research and created side-by-side comparisons with an in-depth analysis of the services and features of each system.

In this guide, we compare GreatCall and Medical Guardian. Both companies have lengthy, reputable histories in the industry, are based in the United States, and provide 24/7 U.S.-based monitoring. While GreatCall offers portable solutions, Medical Guardian has both In-Home and On-The-Go options.

Side by Side ComparisonGreatCallMedical Guardian
Up-Front Equipment$49.99 for Lively Mobile device
+ $10 shipping
$0 for most plans, $99 with Freedom Guardian plan
Monthly Monitoring$24.99 - $39.99
+ $3/month for optional device replacement plan, included free in Ultimate plan
$29.95 - $79.95
+ $10/month for optional fall detection monitoring
Activation Fee$35$0
*Full refund of unused prepaid services
Month-to-month, Quarterly, Biannually, or Annually
*Full refund of unused prepaid services
Optional Monthly Add-On ServicesFall Detection - included in the Ultimate planWall-Mounted Button - $2 each
Voice-Activated Wall Buttons - $5 each (Classic Guardian or Family Guardian plans only)
Lockbox - $2 each; free with the annual payment plan
Water-Resistant Wearable DevicesYesPendant/wristband button
Active Guardian All-In-One Mobile Device
ConnectionCellular (Verizon network)Landline or cellular (AT&T network)
2-Way Voice CommunicationYes, Through Urgent Care service included in the Preferred and Ultimate plansThrough in-home base for At-Home products or wearable pendant with On-The-Go service
Range (From in-home base unit for landline service)UnlimitedUp to 600' for In-Home bases
Up to 1,300' for wearable devices
Battery life24 hoursPortable devices offer rechargeable batteries with 1-5 days per charge
In-Home bases have 30 - 32 hours of battery backup
Fall DetectionIncluded in the monthly cost of the Ultimate packageOptional monthly add-on with Mobile Guardian and Freedom Guardian plans
GPS LocatorIncluded with Lively Mobile deviceIncluded with On-The-Go plans
Coverage Away from HomeYesYes, anywhere in the United States
24/7 USA Call CenterYesYes
Device Replacement - included with Ultimate plan; $3 per month otherwise
GreatCall Link App - included with Ultimate and Preferred plans
Wall-Mounted Button - $2 each
Voice-Activated Wall Buttons - $5 each (Classic Guardian or Family Guardian plans only)
Lockbox - $2 each, free with the annual payment plan

GreatCall Overview

Established in 2006, GreatCall made a name for itself as the cellular provider for senior citizens. Today, the company also offers the GreatCall Lively Mobile package for medical alert services.

GreatCall Lively Mobile offers the unique Urgent Care feature that lets users connect to a licensed doctor or nurse directly via their medical alert device and order refills for basic prescriptions with just the push of a button.

All GreatCall plans utilize the portable Lively Mobile device. This lightweight, waterproof device can be carried in a pocket or purse, or worn in a belt-clip holder or as a wristband or pendant.

The system uses Verizon’s cellular network to connect to its monitoring center and other services. It also offers GPS location tracking to help caregivers and emergency dispatchers find users quickly and easily.

The company offers a 30-day trial period during which customers can return their device for a full refund, minus a $10 restocking fee. Otherwise, service can be canceled at any time without penalty and any unused prepaid time refunded.

Using the 5Star Urgent Response Center, GreatCall is the only medical alert system that doesn’t come with a base station. This gives it an unlimited range so seniors can use it anywhere. All GreatCall operators undergo intensive training for emergency medical situations and are IAED-certified. They’re also trained to help with potentially dangerous or anxiety-producing circumstances such as getting locked out, walking alone at night or getting a flat tire on the road.

Pros of GreatCall:

  • 24/7 access to qualified medical advice
  • Wide variety of add-ons
  • No long-term contracts
  • Easy to use devices
  • Multilingual customer service help
  • Refunds for unused weeks of service
  • No landline needed

Cons of GreatCall:

  • Costly startup fees
  • Additional services can greatly increase the monthly cost
  • No advanced payment discounts
  • Monitoring centers aren’t TMA five diamond-certified

Medical Guardian Overview

Founded by CEO Geoff Gross after his grandmother needed help at home following a series of falls, Medical Guardian officially opened its doors in 2005. Today, it’s an authority in fall detection and personal safety, and one of the top-rated medical alert device companies.

Medical Guardian offers six levels of medical alert protection through three In-Home packages and three On-The-Go packages. Their devices include home base units, wearable emergency buttons and smartwatch devices.

Their monitoring services can be utilized with either a landline or cellular connection through the AT&T network. These services go through CSAA-certified, US-based monitoring centers that operate 24/7, 365 days a year.

Medical Guardian also offers customers a number of add-on features such as voice-activated wall-mounted emergency buttons, lockboxes, activity monitoring, and fall protection that can increase their peace of mind and monthly bill.

Pros of Medical Guardian:

  • Established, trusted U.S.-based company
  • Lightweight, discreetly wearable devices
  • Advanced fall detection and GPS locating
  • No long-term contract
  • Wide variety of device options
  • Availability of premium features
  • Free caregiver portal
  • No device or activation fees (other than Freedom Guardian smartwatch device)

Cons of Medical Guardian:

  • Mobile systems are pricier than the industry average
  • Some customers must pay shipping

Pricing Comparison

While Medical Guardian has a smartwatch-style device that requires a one-time fee of $99, that is the only equipment fee. GreatCall, on the other hand, can’t be used without first buying the Lively Wireless device for $49.99 plus $10 for shipping. GreatCall also charges a $35 activation fee.

As far as monthly monitoring fees are concerned, GreatCall’s three plans range from $24.99 to $39.99 and all include mobile services. Medical Guardian has six packages ranging from $29.99 to $79.99, and only the three highest priced offer mobile services.

Neither company charges a cancellation fee, and both provide a prorated refund for any prepaid months.

GreatCall is the better value overall even though it charges more to get started. Its monthly monitoring charges are lower, and it offers fall protection that costs extra with Medical Guardian, making GreatCall less expensive in the long run.

Our Pick

GreatCall Lively Mobile stands out for its unique Urgent Care feature that allows users 24/7 access to doctors and nurses. Plus, it’s a better value for those who don’t need a home base unit.

Based on ease of use, included features and affordability, GreatCall is our choice for mobile medical alert services. Medical Guardian wins by default for those who rely on a landline, since GreatCall service is entirely mobile-based.

Overall, older adults seeking discreet, wearable emergency call technology with reliable, 24/7 monitoring would be well served by either GreatCall or Medical Guardian.

Compare More Medical Alert Systems

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