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.

Generally speaking, monitored help buttons from reputable providers are easy to use and reliable; however, it’s important to know that there are some risks and limits of medical alert systems. As with any electronic device, even the best medical alert systems can fail due to defects or user error.

All users, caregivers and family members should take the time to consider the risks that could be involved with relying on a personal emergency response device. By understanding the potential limitations with these popular monitoring systems, consumers can gain a realistic understanding of what to expect and learn ways to mitigate the risks.

Below are the most common risks and limitations of medical alert systems along with tips to help reduce these risks.

Loss of Phone Service

Medical alert systems connect to the emergency monitoring center through either a landline or cellular phone line. If the phone cord is disconnected from an in-home base unit, or if a cellular-based help button loses the cell signal, users won’t be able to connect with the monitoring center.

While there’s nothing consumers can do to prevent the loss of phone service during a storm or due to equipment failure, they can ensure that the phone line on their in-home base unit is installed in a way that can’t be accidentally removed from the device.

Subscribers with a cellular-based medical alert system should ensure that their area’s mobile phone signals are strong enough to maintain a reliable connection, otherwise they may need to select a landline-based device.

The Battery in the Help Button Is Depleted or Defective

All wireless wearable panic buttons are powered with a built-in battery that’s either rated as non-rechargeable and non-replaceable, replaceable or rechargeable. Basic in-home medical alert systems tend to use non-rechargeable, long-life batteries in the help button, while self-contained mobile personal response devices usually have an on-board battery that users must recharge regularly.

Medical alert customers may lose their ability to trigger a call for help if the battery in their panic button is depleted or defective.

To address system failures related to battery issues, many medical alert companies either monitor the battery life in the help button remotely, or they automatically send out a replacement help button before the battery is set to expire. Subscribers should also consider whether or not they can manage a medical alert device that needs to be charged regularly or if a system with maintenance-free batteries is more appropriate for their particular situation.

Automatic Fall Detection May Not Always Work

Automatic fall detection is a feature that dials the emergency monitoring center when sensors in the medical alert pendant determine that the wearer has suffered from a fall. This feature is designed to ensure that help is summoned, even if the user is unable to activate their help button.

Unfortunately, no fall-detection system is 100% reliable, and in an emergency, these systems could fail to trigger a call for help as expected. While there isn’t much users can do to mitigate this risk, it’s important to understand the limits of the fall-detection feature.

Problems With User Compliance

Medical alert systems only work when the users actually wear or carry their panic buttons or are able to reach a wall-mounted or tabletop help button. Issues with user compliance can mean that the help button isn’t available when it’s needed.

To help reduce potential problems with user compliance, consumers should take the time to consider what type of medical alert device is best suited to their personal needs and preferences. Some users may prefer a pendant-style help button, while others may be more likely to wear a watch-style device.

Remember, a medical alert system has the potential to be a life-saving device, but it also comes with a number of risks and limitations.