Medical Alert Systems Review Methodology
How we research and test medical alert systems
To start our research and testing process, we looked at 22 different brands in this space and selected brands to test based on their availability, reviews, price, and contractual practices. We then surveyed more than 1,000 medical alert customers to better understand their experience with their chosen devices as well as their purchasing journey. Next, we gathered input from nine geriatricians and adult caregivers on the most important aspects of these systems to research, mystery shop, and test. We also carefully read hundreds of reviews from trusted third-party sites, such as Better Business Bureau (BBB) and TrustPilot.
From this process, we identified 32 criteria to analyze, weighting each element based on the preferences and needs of the NCOA audience. Each element of our criteria was tested thoroughly, from the average response time of a monitoring center to the accuracy of a brand’s fall detection pendant from different heights and types of falls. Once we completed our research and testing, we scored each brand on a weighted scale. Once we completed our research and testing, we scored each brand on a weighted scale. From there, we listed our top medical alert system brand picks based on features, price, proprietary surveys, and more.
The gold standard in quality assurance of a medical alert system is a company’s designation as one of The Monitoring Association’s (TMA) Five Diamond Alert Monitoring Centers. You may see companies refer to this on their website as CSAA Five Diamond Alert Monitoring Centers because TMA was formerly known as the Central Station Alarm Association.
You’ll also see companies advertise that they are “UL-listed,” which is another quality indicator. UL stands for the global safety certification company Underwriters Laboratories. All UL-listed products have been tested by this independent, nationally recognized laboratory and meet specific safety requirements.
How we rank and review medical alert systems
To test our medical alert systems, we first surveyed 1,000 medical alert systems users to determine what factors they valued most in a device. We divided our criteria into eight categories, which we weighted according to the user’s biggest concerns.
Here is what our product scores take into account:
Price (25% of total score): We examined the monthly subscription cost of each plan. Brands that provided quality services at a lower price scored the highest. We also considered upfront equipment fees and whether a contract was required—brands that did not lock users into a contract received more points.
Monitoring Center (20% of total score): We tested the average response time of each medical alert system, ranging from 1 to 45 seconds—the faster the time, the better the score. We also looked at whether a company held the TMA 5 Diamond Certification, if they had a backup monitoring center in case of a power outage, and whether their monitoring centers responded to customers 24/7.
Safety Features (20% of total score): Brands earned points for having extra safety features. These include GPS location tracking, a mobile app for loved ones to use, daily check-in services, the chance to call or text emergency dispatch, and other communication options for caregivers. We also tested the fall detection of each model, judging whether the detection was accurate for different types of falls from varying heights.
Ease of Use (15% of total score): We unboxed each device and set it up. Products that were easy to set up and came with clear directions were given more points. We also looked at whether a model’s special features were clearly explained, simple to use, and reliable.
Special Features (5% of total score): These features included voice recognition, health monitoring, and unique wearable and on-the-go devices.
Customer Service (5% of total score): We spent hours on the phone with customer service representatives to find out if they were always available, friendly and easy to talk to, helpful, and if there were operators available who spoke multiple languages.
Brand Reputation (5% of total score): We read hundreds of trusted third-party reviews on BBB and TrustPilot.
Wearable Devices (5% of total score): Brands earned extra points for offering a variety of wearable devices, including pendant necklaces, smartwatches, and bracelets.