Using a cell phone as a medical alert device sounds like a great idea. After all, nearly every one of us has a cell phone that we’re already paying for, even grandma and grandpa. If you’re already carrying a cell phone, why would you want to carry a separate medical alert device? You can just reach into your pocket and dial for help when you need it.
Maybe you could. Maybe you couldn’t. There’s a reason why the medical alert system industry growing. As a matter of fact, it’s forecasted to reach a whopping $21 billion by 2020. If apps were the answer, medical alert systems would be on the way out.
So, the question then becomes, why choose a traditional medical alert system over a medical alert app on a cell phone?
All you have to do is push a single button
Cell phones are mini computers in our pockets. You can text, make phone calls, access the internet, take pictures, and download dozens of apps. That’s convenient when you’re on the go, but in an emergency, all those features can cause trouble.
The easiest apps have a large icon right on the home screen, but you still have to push a button to turn the screen on. Then, you probably have to swipe or enter a code to unlock the phone. If you have more than one home screen, or you left an operation running, you’ll have to exit or swipe to gain access to the medical alert icon.
Now imagine trying to do that if you’re experiencing a medical emergency.
A medical alert system is designed to do just one thing — assist you in the event of an emergency. All you have to do is push a single button. You’re much more likely to get the help you need as fast as possible with a medical alert system than a medical alert app.
Dependable fall detection
What if you can’t push a button at all? It’s an unfortunate reality that seniors can easily slip, fall, and be knocked unconscious. Medical alert systems can contain fall detection, which means your device will be activated right away and help will be sent to your location, even if you can’t answer the customer care associate.
Most apps can’t do this. The button has to be pushed in order to get help. However, there is one app that attracted our attention because it offers fall detection — ManDown.
Sounds cool! Until we took a closer look…
It was designed for firefighters and other first responders. That means, in order for fall detection to be activated, you have to activate the app. It then monitors your phone’s movement. If you don’t move for 30 seconds, a pre-alarm warning is set. If you don’t move for 60 seconds, the full alert is initiated and a notification will be sent to your emergency contacts.
What if you’re sitting on the couch watching TV? Is everyone on your emergency contact list going to be notified? If you remember to deactivate the app when you’re watching a movie, will you remember to reactivate it again before you take a bathroom break? What if your emergency contacts don’t have their phone on them? See where we’re going with this?
Medical alert systems are much easier to carry
What could be easier to carry than a cell phone? You have it with you all the time anyway. Or do you?
Do you carry it with you to go to the bathroom, or leave it on the end table next to the couch? Do you ever forget the phone in the bedroom when you head to the kitchen for a midnight snack? Does it go with you in the shower?
Even though you may think you have your cell phone on you all the time, the truth is, you don’t. A medical alert system can be worn around the neck or the wrist, so it’s much easier to take with you. Plus, emergency buttons are waterproof or at least water resistant, which means you can take them with you in the shower. That’s a pretty big deal considering the majority of falls take place in the bathroom.
There is a place for medical alert apps
Just because we know medical alert systems are better than apps doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for this kind of technology. An Apple Watch is a cool way for young people without a serious medical condition to get the help they need if they’re in an accident, or if they feel unsafe walking home.
For seniors who refuse to wear a medical alert device, apps can also be an option. Just be aware that they don’t offer the best solution to the problem. Only a medical alert device can provide Mom with comprehensive protection.
The industry is about to change
After having said all that, a new day is dawning on the medical alert system horizon. Right now there’s a disjoint between medical alert systems and medical alert apps. That’s going to change in 2018.
At the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), multiple medical alert providers announced that they would be integrating their professional services into smartwatches. That means smart technology may be able to provide the same level of medical services as a medical alert device. Stay tuned to see if this technology will provide the perfect balance between a medical alert system and an all-in-one-device!