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The Best Medical Alert Watches of 2022

Sep 15, 2022

By Sara Lindberg, MeD, and Cara Everett, MS, RDN
Medically Reviewed by Christopher Norman, MSN, APRN, APHN-BC, GNP-BC
Reviewed by Kathleen Cameron, BSPharm, MPH, Senior Director of NCOA’s Center for Healthy Aging
Fact Checked

Affiliate Disclosure
This content and its featured products and services were independently reviewed by a third-party, credentialed Reviews Team. If you make a purchase using the links included, our partners may earn a commission. NCOA, however, does not receive a commission for purchases.

Key Takeaways

  • Medical alert watches combine the benefits of a medical alert system and a smartwatch in one small, lightweight device.
  • Although more costly than some at-home and mobile medical alert systems, medical alert watches may be a good option if you’re comfortable using technology and want the extra features they offer.
  • Pricing for most medical alert watches includes a one-time fee for the watch ($120 and up), plus a monthly fee for the monitoring service ($30 and up).

Medical alert systems provide added safety and security in the event of an emergency, which is important for people who live alone or have a chronic disease. If you’re interested in a small, lightweight medical alert device you can wear, you may want to consider a medical alert watch. 

In addition to serving as a regular watch, the best medical alert watches will connect you with emergency services when you push the help button. Some medical alert watches will also contact your friends and loved ones in an emergency. 

The monthly monitoring fee for most medical alert watches is about the same as for on-the-go medical alert systems. But many companies also charge an upfront fee to buy the watch (compared to on-the-go systems, which sometimes offer equipment rental). One nice thing about all of the medical alert watches reviewed here is you don’t need to sign a contract. You can pay month-by-month and cancel at any time, with no penalty. And because all the watches on this list (except for the LifeStation Sidekick Smart) are purchased outright, when you cancel there’s no need to return the watch because you own it.

Even with the additional fee to buy the watch, medical alert watches are becoming more popular for their features and small size. In our Reviews Team’s survey of 1,000 medical alert users, the majority of respondents (43%) prefer wearing a watch to any other type of device (such as a necklace or bracelet). These are our six picks for the best medical alert watch in 2022.

Best Medical Alert Watch for Seniors

  1. Best for Premium Features: Medical Guardian MGMove
  2. Best for the Price: Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch
  3. Best for Fall Detection: UnaliWear Kanega Watch
  4. Best Smartwatch You Can Rent: LifeStation Sidekick Smart
  5. Most Technologically Advanced: HandsFree Health WellBe Watch 
  6. Best for Active Lifestyles: Apple Watch

Why you can trust our Reviews Team’s expert reviews

2,500+
Hours of Research
1
Surveys Deployed
13
Brands Tested
9
Experts Consulted

Our Reviews Team spent more than 2,500 hours conducting in-depth research on medical alert systems. During our process, we:

  • Engaged in ongoing independent research
  • Consulted with licensed adult caregivers and doctors who specialize in caring for older adults
  • Mystery shopped 13 medical alert system brands
  • Surveyed medical alert system users
  • Tested various medical alert systems
  • Read hundreds of verified customer reviews from trusted third parties, such as Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Trustpilot

Read more about our medical alert systems review methodology.

Table 1 Best medical alert watches comparison chart as of April, 2022

Medical Guardian MGMove

Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch

LifeStation SideKick Smart

HandsFree Health WellBe Watch

Apple Watch

UnaliWear Kanega Watch

Equipment

cost

$199

$159

No

$120

$279–$799

$199–$299

Starting monthly cost

$40–$68

$35

$44 and up

$45

Depends on provider (requires no monthly monitoring fee)

$60–$70

Battery life

24 hours

6–18 hours

About 24 hours

20–24 hours

18 hours

24 hours

Fall detection

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Mobile app

Yes

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Warranty

No

Available for extra fee

No

1-year limited

1-year

1-year limited

Special features

Social app, fitness monitor

Easy-to-use clasp

Alexa Smart Speaker compatibility

Smart speaker for extra fee

ECG, blood oxygen, health tracking

Medication reminders

Best medical alert watch reviews

Best for Premium Features: Medical Guardian MGMove

Medical Guardian MGMove medical alert watch

Pros

  • Easy-to-read screen
  • Variety of extra features (such as medication reminders and voice-to-text)
  • Social app available to stay in touch with friends and family
  • Long battery life (24 hours)

Cons

  • Only comes in black
  • Warranty and some features cost extra
  • Doesn’t include fall detection

Equipment cost: $199

Starting monthly cost: $40–$68 

Dimensions

  • Screen width: 1.25 inches 
  • Case width: 1.85 inches
  • Band length: 5.25–7 inches (regular) or 7–7.75 inches (extra large)

Battery life: 24 hours (reaches full charge in 2–3 hours)

Water resistant: Yes

Fall detection: No

Customer service options

Payment options: Credit card online or by phone (1-800-668-9200)

The MGMove smartwatch by Medical Guardian has some of the best extra features on this list, which is why our Reviews Team named it “Best for Premium Features.” It not only offers some features found in other smartwatches on this list, like weather forecasts and a step counter, but also has some unique extras. 

Medical Guardian includes a free website portal and mobile app called MyGuardian to help caregivers and users communicate easily. With MyGuardian, caregivers or loved ones can send reminders to the medical alert user’s watch. The user can either read or listen to the reminders, which is a helpful option for those with limited vision. It also includes a voice-to-text feature, which allows the user to speak into the watch and convert a voice message into a text message that they can send to their contacts.

For an additional $3 per month, you can subscribe to OnGuard Alerts to keep family and friends informed in an emergency. If you press the help button, your chosen contacts get real-time updates about your location and condition. You can also add a Support Circle for an extra $5 per month. This keeps you in touch with loved ones through the chat and text functions and sends you appointment and medication reminders as well. Using the app, you can add your whole calendar and receive notifications for all your events and appointments.

In contrast to some other medical alert watches tested by our Reviews Team, the MGMove does not offer the ability to call people directly from the watch and it does not include fall detection. But given its variety of extra features and average price, it may be a good fit for those who want tech-forward features without a hefty price tag.

To buy: Medical Guardian MGMove medical alert system, $40 and $199 one-time equipment cost; medicalguardian.com

Best for the Price: Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch

Bay Alarm Medical sos smartwatch medical alert watch

Pros

  • Risk-free, 30-day trial
  • One of the lowest equipment and monthly fees among medical alert systems
  • Monitoring center supports more than 170 languages
  • Two-for-one monthly monitoring package for multi-person households  

Cons

  • Short battery life compared to other watches (618 hours)
  • Warranty costs extra
  • Doesn’t include fall detection

Equipment cost: $159 

Starting monthly cost: $35

Dimensions

  • Screen width: 1.25 inches 
  • Case width: 1.75 inches 
  • Band length: 5.25–8 inches

Battery life: 6–18 hours (reaches full charge in about two hours)

Water resistant: Yes

Fall detection: No

Customer service options

  • Phone (1-877-522-9633) available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST, Saturday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. PST
  • Email (cs@bayalarmmedical.com)
  • Online chat (on the company’s Customer Service & Support page)
  • Free mobile app (called My Account Manager, also available to download on the Customer Service & Support page)

Payment options: Credit card

Bay Alarm Medical is our Reviews Team’s pick for “Best for the Price” medical alert watch for two reasons: The watch costs less than several other brands (three of the six brands on this list are more expensive); and Bay Alarm offers a two-for-one deal. This lets you add another person in your household to the plan for no additional monthly fee. Just keep in mind you will need to buy a second SOS watch. 

But the lower price isn’t the only reason Bay Alarm Medical deserves to be “Best for the Price.” two-way communication that lets you speak to monitoring center operators directly through the watch.

To reach Bay Alarm Medical’s 24/7 monitoring center, press and hold the SOS button on the left side of the watch. You’ll connect to a dispatcher in fewer than 15 seconds (based on our Reviews Team’s testing). The SOS Smartwatch has a built-in speaker and microphone, so you can talk into your watch to speak with the dispatcher. They will determine your location with the watch’s GPS system and send local 911 help if needed. The dispatcher can also alert your emergency contact list. 

Bay Alarm Medical’s watch has a sleek design and easy-to-use touch screen. It offers two wristband lengths to fit most people. And if you’re active, you may enjoy using the built-in step tracker. 

One of the biggest downsides to the SOS Smartwatch is its battery life: It only lasts for 6–18 hours (it takes about two hours to reach a full charge), compared to 18–24 hours with the other watches on this list. But if extra features combined with a lower price are important to you, the SOS may be a good choice.

To buy: Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch medical alert system, $35 and $159 one-time equipment cost; bayalarmmedical.com or call 855-781-6379

Best for Fall Detection: UnaliWear Kanega Watch

UnaliWear Kanega Watch in black with digital watch face visible

Pros

  • Includes fall detection
  • Can be worn 24/7 without having to remove for charging
  • Risk-free, 30-day trial
  • Wi-Fi and cellular connection
  • Comes in three colors (black, champagne gold, and rose gold)

Cons

  • Doesn’t include a mobile app
  • Highest monthly cost on this list
  • Only available in English

Equipment cost: $199–$299

Monthly cost: $60–$70

Dimensions

  • Screen width: 1.61 inches
  • Case width: 1.61 inches 
  • Band length: 5–7 inches

Battery life: 24 hours (reaches full charge in about four hours)

Water resistant: Yes

Fall detection: Yes

Customer service options

Payment options: Credit card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Diners, JCB)

The UnaliWear Kanega Watch is one of the only smartwatches that offers fall detection and connects with a U.S. monitoring center in an emergency, making it our Reviews Team’s selection for “Best for Fall Detection.”

The majority of respondents (60%) to our Reviews Team’s survey said fall detection is the most important special feature they want in a medical alert device. The fall detection technology in the Kanega Watch learns the movements that are normal for you, decreasing the amount of false falls (see our note above about fall accuracy). Richard Hirsch, chief marketing officer of UnaliWear, explained that “the Kanega’s technology is connected to the cloud and continuously learns what is and isn’t a fall. [For example], when the watch asks “Is this a fall?”, the user either confirms or denies and the technology remembers that.”

Another feature that stands out with the Kanega Watch is that you never have to take it off to recharge it. The watch comes with four rechargeable lithium-ion batteries—two that are connected to the watch and two that stay in the charger until they’re needed. The batteries are easy to access at the front of the watch. 

To swap the batteries, disconnect the two batteries located at the top and bottom of the watch, replace them with the two fully charged batteries in the charger, and then place the discharged batteries into the charger to be recharged. This protects you throughout the day, in case of a fall. 

The Kanega also has an internal safety back-up battery that keeps the watch powered enough to provide a medical operator with your GPS location, which can be reassuring if you fall and the batteries dislodge. 

Something to keep in mind is that while you don’t have to take the watch off to charge it, the charge time for a fully charged battery is about four hours, the longest charge time on this list.

Two of the biggest drawbacks of the Kanega Watch are the price, and that it doesn’t offer a mobile app. The high equipment fees ($199–$299) and monthly costs ($60–$70) are more expensive than most of the medical alert watches in this review, and the lack of a companion smartphone app can be a disadvantage for caregivers and family who want to keep track of their loved ones.

The UnaliWear Kanega Watch is a good option if you want discreet fall detection and simple battery recharging. If price is a concern, the UnaliWear Kanega Watch may not be what you’re looking for.

To buy: UnaliWear Kanega Watch, $60–$70 per month for monitoring service, and a one-time equipment cost of $199–$299; unaliwear.com

Best Smartwatch You Can Rent: LifeStation Sidekick Smart

LifeStation sidekick smart medical alert watch

Pros

  • Money-back, 30-day guarantee
  • No upfront equipment cost
  • Includes heart rate monitoring and step tracking
  • Best when a medical alert device is needed for short periods of time

Cons

  • Purchase by phone only 
  • Only available in black
  • Doesn’t offer fall detection

Equipment cost: $0

Starting monthly cost: $44 and up

Dimensions

  • Screen width: 1.82 inches 
  • Case width: 1.85 inches
  • Band length: 7–9 inches

Battery life: 24 hours (reaches full charge in about three hours)

Water resistant: Yes

Fall detection: No

Customer service options

  • Phone (800-998-2400) available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST, Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST

Payment options: Credit card over the phone

If you want to try out a medical alert watch without buying one, LifeStation may be a good choice. The company offers a monthly subscription plan that includes the cost of its Sidekick Smart watch and the monitoring fees. Unlike other medical alert watches that you own after paying the equipment fee, the Sidekick is on lease while you use the monitoring services. That means no equipment cost (it’s the only watch on this list that doesn’t require one), which is why our Reviews Team named it “Best Smartwatch You Can Rent.”

LifeStation doesn’t require any contracts, so if you decide a medical alert watch is not for you, you can cancel your subscription at any time.

Along with medical monitoring, the LifeStation Sidekick Smart comes with weather forecasts, a heart rate monitor, and a step tracker. In an emergency, this watch works much like Bay Alarm Medical’s SOS Smartwatch. Both have GPS and two-way communication, so when you press the help button dispatchers will know where you are, and you can speak to them directly through the watch. 

LifeStation also offers an app called Find my Loved One, which gives users and identified friends or loved ones the ability to check in with each other and pinpoint the location of the watch wearer.

Our Reviews Team found the call center operators provide excellent customer support and respond in fewer than 15 seconds (based on the Reviews Team’s testing, the average response time is 15–30 seconds). They will also stay on the line until assistance arrives, making this a good choice if you live alone (not all medical alert companies may do this). 

Despite having no equipment cost, the Sidekick Smart does have a high monthly cost ($44). And if you ever want to switch to a different medical alert company, you’ll have to return the watch, since you’re renting it. Although the other watches on this list include charges for equipment, the device is yours to keep after the contract ends.

For those who plan on using a medical alert watch for only a short, set period of time, you may be able to save money by renting your smartwatch from LifeStation rather than buying a device from another company on this list. 

To buy: LifeStation Sidekick Smart medical alert system, $44 and up; lifestation.com or call 866-599-1498

Most Technologically Advanced: HandsFree Health WellBe Watch

Handsfree health wellbe watch medical alert watch

Pros

  • Low equipment fee
  • Multiple high-tech features included at no extra charge
  • Large, easy-to-use screen 
  • Digital or analog clock face with large numbers

Cons

  • Only comes in black
  • Smart speaker costs extra 
  • No customer service phone number or email address
  • Doesn’t offer fall detection

Equipment cost: $120 

Monthly cost: $45

Dimensions

  • Screen width: 1.82 inches 
  • Case width: 1.85 inches
  • Band length: 7–9 inches

Battery life: 20–24 hours (reaches full charge in about three hours)

Water resistant: Yes

Fall detection: No

Customer service options: Contact form on website (https://shop.handsfreehealth.com/contact/)

Payment options: Credit card

The WellBe Watch from HandsFree Health is an excellent choice for people who are comfortable using technology. Its wide range of tech-forward features earned it our Reviews Team’s designation of “Best Technologically Advanced Smartwatch.” It comes with the following features:

  • Medical alert monitoring with access to a 24/7 help center 
  • Fitness monitor (for heart rate and steps per day)
  • GPS location tracking
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • An app that keeps track of your health information
  • Two-way communication (so you can talk to emergency operators through your watch) 

You can also add a smart speaker for $189 with no monthly fee, or you can bundle the watch and speaker for $160 with a $55 monthly fee. Smart speakers are nice to have because they are voice-activated, meaning you can communicate with them using only your voice. WellBe’s smart speaker, the Voice-Enabled Virtual Health Assistant, can help in the following ways:

  • Reminding you about medications and appointments 
  • Tracking your blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Sending messages to your family, friends, and caregivers
  • Playing music, audiobooks, or news  

One of the reasons the WellBe is an excellent pick for older adults is the large size of the help button. Located on the side of the watch, the help button is big enough to find quickly in an emergency, but low-profile enough to give the watch a sleek look. Don’t worry if you accidentally press it—like all the watches on this list, you have several seconds to cancel a help call if you press the button by mistake.

The WellBe Watch is a good choice if you enjoy using technology and are looking for a watch that offers extra features at a reasonable price. It may not be a good fit if you’re looking for a simpler device with less complicated features or are looking for robust customer service. Customer service options at HandsFree Health are limited compared to the other companies on this list. The only option is sending a message through the company’s website (there’s no customer service phone number or email address), but HandsFree Health promises to send a response within one business day. 

To buy: HandsFree Health WellBe Watch medical alert system, $45 and $120 one-time equipment cost; handsfreehealth.com

Best for Active Lifestyles: Apple Watch 

Apple watch medical alert watch

Pros

  • Depends on provider (requires no monthly monitoring fee)
  • Series 7 and SE provide fall detection and international emergency calls
  • Large, easy-to-read display screen 
  • Wide range of prices, features, and styles to choose from 
  • Automatically contacts friends and loved ones in an emergency
  • Numerous customer service options

Cons

  • High equipment cost ($279–$799)
  • No 24/7 monitoring center 
  • More complicated to set up and use 
  • An iPhone is needed to set up the watch 

Equipment cost: $279–$799

Monthly cost: None

Dimensions

  • Screen width: 1.6–1.77 inches
  • Case width: 1.6–1.77 inches 
  • Band length: Regular (fits wrists 5.5–8.2 inches) or extra large (fits wrists 6.2–9.6 inches)

Battery life: 18 hours (reaches full charge in about two hours)

Water resistant: Yes

Fall detection: Yes

Customer service options

Payment options: Credit card, debit card, Apple Pay, and PayPal

The Apple Watch is a popular tech device, but you may not know about its medical alert capabilities. It’s not a traditional medical alert watch that connects you to a company’s monitoring center, but it does have features to help in an emergency and monitor your health, including the ability to track your heart rate and rhythm, number of steps each day, time spent in physical activity, and more. These features convinced our Reviews Team to name the Apple Watch as “Best for Active Lifestyles.”

All models of the Apple Watch monitor your heart rate and rhythm and alert you if anything seems unusual. The Series 7 model also allows you to check your blood oxygen levels (via an app that preloads when you set up your Apple Watch) and take an electrocardiogram (ECG). ECGs record the electrical signals in your heart to quickly detect heart problems and monitor your heart health, according to the Mayo Clinic.1 To take the ECG, make sure the ECG app is set up in your Health app. It will record your heartbeat and analyze its rhythm.

You’ll also have the ability to track the following:

  • Number of steps each day
  • Speed of physical activity
  • Time spent in physical activity
  • Calories burned
  • Hours of sleep


Fall detection is also available on Apple Watch SE or on Apple Watch Series 4 or later. When the Apple Watch detects a hard fall, it vibrates against your wrist, sounds an alarm, and shows an alert. You can dismiss the alert, which tells the system you’re okay and ends the alarm, or you can call 911. If the watch detects you haven’t moved for one minute, it will call 911 automatically. It will also send messages to your emergency contacts, letting them know your location, that your watch detected a fall, and that you may need help. Falls are also recorded in the Health app. 

It’s worth noting that no fall detection is 100% accurate, and research from 2016 shows fall detection worn around your neck is more accurate than fall detection worn around your wrist.1 The same research found the best way to wear a fall detection device is as a necklace, high on your chest and in front of your sternum, for accuracy.

One important point about the Apple watch is that it does require an iPhone for setup. Apple offers an option called Family Setup to allow people who don’t have an iPhone to use their watch, but someone in the family still needs an iPhone to set the watch up and manage its features.

The Apple Watch is a good choice if you’re an iPhone user looking for a high-tech device with features for an active lifestyle, fall detection, and GPS. But if technology is not your thing, it might take some time to adjust to this watch. It’s also the most expensive watch on our list.

To buy: Apple Watch, $279–$799; apple.com

What is a medical alert watch?

A medical alert watch is a device that looks like a regular watch, but it can call 911 or a monitoring center in the event of an emergency. Some medical alert companies offer smartwatches in addition to their traditional on-the-go and in-home medical alert systems. Like medical alert watches, the best medical alert systems can keep you safe and grant you peace of mind.

James Dan, MD, a geriatric clinical advisor and member of the Senior Helpers board of directors, believes medical alert devices or watches are well worth the cost.

“Medical alert watches range from fairly simple alert buttons to two-way communication devices, patient locator features, fall sensors, and more,” said Dr. Dan. “[Necklaces] with alert buttons provide a limited measure of help, but we find seniors often don’t wear them as they feel stigmatized or simply inconvenienced to wear them.” That makes watches more appealing since they’re not obvious medical alert devices. Plus, they can provide a plethora of benefits and significantly enhance older adult safety.

Some companies offer wrist buttons that look like a watch but do not have smartwatch features, like time, GPS, fitness tracking, health monitoring, and two-way communication. You’ll want to consider a medical alert smartwatch to get all of these features in one device.

Pros and cons of medical alert watches

All medical alert systems and watches come with benefits and drawbacks. The key is finding the device that best fits your needs and budget. Here are some general pros and cons of medical alert watches. 

Pros

  • A smartwatch and medical alert system in one device 
  • Looks like a watch, not a medical alert system
  • Works anywhere with cell coverage 
  • Most include the following features:
    • GPS services to identify the user’s location
    • Built-in microphone and speaker for two-way communication with monitoring center
    • Fitness and health tracking features
    • Apps for caregivers to monitor the user’s location and get emergency alerts

Cons

  • Very few medical alert watches offer fall detection
  • Most require a one-time equipment fee
  • Some do not offer many smartwatch features
  • May be too bulky if you’re used to wearing a small watch
  • Must be charged daily—most batteries only last 24 hours, although some last up to 48 hours
  • May be hard to use if you’re not comfortable with technology
  • Small touch screens are harder to navigate than a simple alert button

Who should use a medical alert watch?

Many people think that only older adults use medical alert systems, but experts recommend these safety devices in other situations, too. For example, people recovering from surgery or managing a chronic disease can benefit from a medical alert system. Dr. Dan, the geriatric clinic adviser, said older adults who live alone may benefit from wearing a medical alert watch.  

According to Christopher Norman, a geriatric nurse practitioner in New York state, using a medical alert system in addition to having support from family, friends, neighbors, or other caregivers is important. “A fall may result in a situation where a person is not able to press the button, or in the case of a stroke, a person may not be able to say what’s wrong when the device is automatically triggered,” said Norman. “Having a person that has a routine time to check in can be a lifesaving added benefit to the right medical alert device. I’ve had patients use simple systems like, ‘If you don’t see my living room light on, come check on me.’”

For safety, anyone at risk of falling at home should consider wearing a device with fall detection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one out of four older people falls each year, and the risk of falling and fall-related problems rises with age.3 

If you or a loved one is concerned about falling at home or having a medical emergency and not being able to get to a phone, a medical alert watch can provide peace of mind.

How much do medical alert watches cost?

Medical alert watch costs usually include the fee to buy the watch and the monthly monitoring fees. In general, the equipment fee for a medical alert watch runs between $119–$299. The Apple Watch is much higher, with prices ranging between $279–$799. 

Four of the six medical alert smartwatches in this review require monthly subscription fees covering the monitoring services. Prices for the monthly monitoring service range from $25–$70. The Apple Watch is the only device that does not have a 24/7 monitoring center—it links directly to 911.

If you want to add extra features or apps to your medical alert watch, you may need to pay extra. For a breakdown of cost comparisons between medical alert watches, see Table 2 below.

Table 2 Cost comparison of medical alert watches, as of June 2022

Company

Starting monthly cost / Equipment fee

Medical Guardian MGMove

$40 and up / $199 equipment fee

Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch

$35 / $159 one-time equipment fee

LifeStation Sidekick

$44 and up / no equipment fee

HandsFree Health WellBe Watch

$45 / $120 one-time equipment fee

Apple Watch

N/A / $279–$799 one-time equipment fee

UnaliWear Kanega Watch

$60 and up / $199–$299 one-time equipment fee

Important features of medical alert watches

Medical alert watches offer similar benefits to traditional medical alert systems, but they require a few extras to really make them worthwhile. Here are some important features of medical alert watches to consider when shopping for a device. 

GPS technology

GPS technology is important because it allows the monitoring center to know your location when you call for help. In the case of the Apple Watch, it allows 911 to detect your location. 

Fall detection

Fall detection is not as common in medical alert smartwatches as in traditional medical alert systems. There are a few brands not included in this review that have fall detection, but they didn’t have as many smartwatch features. 

If fall detection is a priority, you may want to consider the UnaliWear Kanega Watch, the Apple Watch, or a traditional at-home or on-the-go medical alert system. Keep in mind that studies have found that fall detection is more accurate when it’s on a device worn near the center of the body.4 A watch or bracelet with fall detection tends to cause false alarms due to normal arm movements.

When considering the fall detection feature, ask the company what type of falls are detected and not detected. Falling from a standing position is a faster fall than a slide out of bed or from a chair. While falling from a height is sometimes more traumatic, sliding out of bed or from a chair can be just as challenging in terms of getting back up.

To check your risk of falling and get tips on falls prevention, use NCOA’s Falls Free CheckUp tool.

Battery life

Battery life and charging time are key factors to consider in a medical alert watch. Most devices need charging every 24 hours and reach a full charge after about 2–4 hours, depending on how much you use them and what features you use (some features drain more battery than others). It may be helpful to set up an alert (outside of the smartwatch), such as a call from a friend or caregiver, to remind you to charge your device.

Response time

The time between pushing the help button and getting connected to an operator is critical. Most medical alert watches will contact a monitoring center in 20–45 seconds. It’s a good idea to call and ask for specifics about response times before settling on a watch.

This was one of the most important factors in choosing a medical alert system for 70% of our Reviews Team’s survey respondents. In the testing process, we found that Medical Guardian, Bay Alarm Medical, and HandsFree Health had the fastest response times of 1–15 seconds, and that the overall average response time is 15–30 seconds.

For more information on monitoring centers and response time, check out how medical alert systems work.

Style and size 

Take some time to compare different watch styles and read reviews about how other customers like each brand. This will help you make an informed decision and ensure that you’ll enjoy wearing your medical alert watch. 

Two-way communication

A built-in microphone and speaker make two-way communication possible. This feature makes a difference when calling for help because you can speak directly to an operator and explain what kind of help you need.

Extras

Fitness tracking and health monitoring are just a few reasons people choose medical alert watches instead of traditional mobile devices. Medical alert watches offer the ability to send messages, check the weather, count your steps, monitor your heart rate, and more.

How to choose the best medical alert watch for you

A medical alert smartwatch only works if you wear it and can operate it in an emergency. That’s why it’s a good idea to research different companies when choosing a watch. 

Here are some questions to consider when comparing devices. 

  • What is your budget? Medical alert watches range in price from $119–$299 (except for the Apple Watch, which can cost up to $799). Most companies require a one-time, upfront equipment fee to cover the cost of the watch. The good news is, you’ll own the watch after paying that fee. Other than the Apple Watch, the rest of the companies have a monthly monitoring fee that costs between $25–$70, which adds to the overall cost. Knowing your budget ahead of time will help you narrow your choices and find the medical alert watch that works best for you.  
  • Does it have fall detection? Many of the well-known, reputable medical alert companies do not offer fall detection within smartwatch models. There are a few (not included in this review) that do come equipped with fall detection, but they have low ratings in other areas. If fall detection is important to you, consider the Apple Watch or choose a device with fall detection that offers fewer smartwatch features. 
  • What features do you want? One reason people choose a medical alert smartwatch is for the extras that come with the device. In addition to a help button, a watch may include fitness tracking, calorie counting, health monitoring, weather updates, and more. 

Tips for saving money on medical alert systems

The high cost of medical alert systems is one reason many people don’t buy them. The good news is there are budget-friendly options, such as the HandsFree Health WellBe Watch that starts at $120 for the equipment fee and $25 for the monthly monitoring fee, and the Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch, which starts at $159 for the equipment fee and $35 for the monthly monitoring fee. Although Bay Alarm Medical’s SOS Smartwatch is slightly more expensive than the WellBe Watch, our Reviews Team named it “Best for the Price” based on its two-for-one deal and range of special features.

Medicare coverage

Unfortunately, medical alert watches and other systems are generally not covered by Medicare Part A or Part B. Sometimes Part C plans (Medicare Advantage) cover a portion of your fees. Check with your insurance provider for more information. For help navigating your Medicare benefits and finding what other benefits programs are available in your area, use NCOA’s Benefits CheckUp tool.

Most private health insurance plans do not cover the costs associated with a medical alert watch. In very rare cases, some plans include a benefit for covering medical alert devices, but you’ll probably need your doctor to fill out paperwork showing that they are medically necessary. It’s always a good idea to call your health insurance company to get exact coverage details before purchasing a medical alert system.

There are other ways to save money beyond insurance and Medicare.

  • Reach out to the medical alert company. Your first order of business should be to call customer service and explain your situation. You may be able to get a discount on the price of the watch or a lower monthly subscription fee. Several companies reduce the equipment fee during sale events.
  • Ask about partner coverage. Companies like Bay Alarm Medical offer a two-for-one deal that provides monthly monitoring for you and a spouse or partner. You will just need to purchase two watches, so you each have one.
  • Look into veteran benefits. If you or a loved one receive veteran benefits, contact the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for information about medical alert benefits. Its website offers an online locator to help you find your local office. Just keep in mind that the VA sometimes offers discounts only for specific companies.

Use flexible spending accounts (FSAs) or health spending accounts (HSAs). According to the IRS, medical alert bracelets or necklaces may be covered by your FSA or HSA.6 Speak with your FSA or HSA provider for more information.

Bottom line

The best medical alert watch is one you’ll wear and enjoy using.

If you’re looking for premium features, our Reviews Team recommends the Medical Guardian MGMove. If you’re interested in the best features for the lowest price, the Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch may be a good choice. If cost is an issue and you would prefer to lease the equipment, LifeStation Sidekick Smart might be the way to go. You’ll pay a monthly fee that includes the monitoring costs and the fee for using the watch. For the most technologically advanced smartwatch, the HandsFree Health WellBe Watch is likely a good fit. If you want the best medical alert watch with active lifestyle settings, then the Apple Watch may be your best bet. And lastly, if you’re looking for fall detection that connects to a monitoring center, the ​​UnaliWear Kanega Watch could be a good option for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions about this review? Email us at reviewsteam@ncoa.org.

Sources

  1. Mayo Clinic, “Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)” Found on the internet at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/ekg/about/pac-20384983
  2. Gjoreski, et al., “How Accurately Can Your Wrist Device Recognize Daily Activities and Detect Falls?” Found on the internet at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4166886/
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Facts About Falls” Found on the internet at https://www.cdc.gov/falls/facts.html
  4. Pannurat N, et al., “Automatic Fall Monitoring: A Review.” Found on the internet at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4166886/
  5. Internal Revenue Service, “Publication 969 (2021), Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans” Found on the internet at https://www.irs.gov/publications/p969

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