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Medical Guardian is a major player in the medical alert field. Philadelphian Geoff Gross founded the company in 2005, spurred on when his mother suffered several falls. Nearly two decades later, Gross remains at the helm of Medical Guardian and adults still worry about the safety of their aging parents.
Persons who need urgent medical assistance do not have the time to pull out a smartphone and tap on a screen — medical emergencies are just too frazzling. That’s why medical alert devices offer one-touch simplicity. Systems with fall detection technology can go even farther and summon help with no user interaction at all.
Medical Guardian now serves more than 300,000 customers. Should you join them?
In this review, we’ll take a look at the virtues and shortcomings of the company’s five devices, look at some use cases, and finish up with some strategies to employ before you buy any alert service.
Review of Medical Guardian Pros:
- Small and capable all-in-one device
- User-friendly smartwatch
- Competitive home-based systems
- Customizable notifications
- Easy setups
Review of Medical Guardian Cons:
- Many billing complaints
- Entry-level device relatively expensive
- Some plans require two devices for fall detection
- Monthly fee for lockboxes
Consider This Before Buying a Medical Alert System
Before signing up with Medical Guardian, or one of its competitors, a reality check is in order. These systems aim to help individuals or couples who can still handle many of the necessary tasks of daily living. In no way are these systems an adequate substitute for an assisted living situation or frequent visits from a home health care worker.
Realism must also extend to fall detection systems. To work reliably, users must wear their devices at chest level. This high placement gives the device’s accelerometer a more accurate reading on a sudden downward movement. No manufacturer currently markets a reliable wrist-mounted or belt-clipped fall detection device.
Finally, look for enduring value in any service you consider. Several services have pushed through substantial price increases recently, and you should prepare yourself to deal with higher subscription fees for any provider you choose.
Review of Medical Guardian Devices, Features, and Benefits
Medical Guardian markets five alert systems, with some features available on the full product line.
Medical Guardian Customized Notifications: Call Chains
OnGuard Alerts is a feature available on all Medical Guardian devices for an extra $2.99 per month. Users begin by setting up a prioritized list of family members, friends, and neighbors. The company calls this list a Call Chain.
When a subscriber contacts the Medical Guardian call center by pushing their device button, the user has the option of alerting their Call Chain. Once activated, Medical Guardian begins to walk through the names of the subscriber’s Call Chain, sending emails or texts until a member answers.
Consider a senior living by herself who awakens with an upset stomach. Her situation deserves assistance but falls well short of needing an ambulance and paramedics. By pressing her call button, our senior can take advantage of her Call Chain, receiving help from a trusted family member or friend without burdening local emergency services.
Medical Guardian Streamline Emergency Entry: Lockboxes
For an extra $2.99 per month, Medical Guardian provides a door handle lockbox to hold an entry key for your home. If you need the services of emergency medical technicians, Medical Guardian passes the lockbox combination to the EMTs.
This method of entry is substantially quicker and less expensive than the first responders taking a fire ax to your front door.
Medical Guardian Home-Based Alert Devices: The Classic Guardian and Home 2.0
When home medical alert products debuted in the 1970s, the systems comprised a pendant linked to a base station by radio, with the base station in turn plugged into the local phone network. Nearly half a century later, this system continues to serve the needs of persons who live alone, but never leave home without a trusted companion.
Medical Guardian offers two products in this market segment. The company’s Classic Guardian product plugs into a landline connection and costs $29.95 per month with a basic subscription or $39.95 with fall detection.
Customers may swap the mobile call button between a necklace for daytime wear and a watchband for overnight wear.
For seniors who live in areas with unreliable cellular coverage, this is an ideal solution. The drawback to this approach is that users must locate their base stations near a standard phone jack.
Instead of a landline connection, Medical Guardian’s Home 2.0 system relies on the cellular grid. With this setup, users only need to position the base station near an electrical outlet.
Home 2.0 slots in at $34.95 per month for a basic subscription and $44.95 with fall detection.
With both systems, a couple can take advantage of the base station by purchasing an extra pendant. Beyond the one-time pendant purchase, there is no additional monthly charge. If the power goes out, both base stations can run on their batteries for 32 hours.
For added safety, Medical Guardian also offers wireless battery-powered wall buttons to provide extra opportunities to contact their call center. The Philadelphia-based company offers conventional one-touch buttons at $2.99 per month and voice-activated buttons at $5 each month. Both buttons are suitable for bathroom use and attach to a wall with adhesives.
While the pendants have an impressive range — 1,300 feet from the base station — they lack a highly useful feature: a microphone. If you press your pendant button and your call center operator cannot hear you from the base station’s microphone, Medical Guardian will contact your local first responders.
Not every call for assistance merits the services of paramedics, and this reality highlights the prime shortcoming of the fixed base and pendant systems. Happily, portable options with two-way talk have evolved.
Medical Guardian Pocketable Base Station: The Mobile 2.0
Medical Guardian’s Mobile 2.0 device serves as a hybrid solution between home base stations and pure wearables. The Mobile 2.0 features a call button and two-way talk capability in a package measuring 2.6 inches by 1.5 inches. You can wear this device as a pendant or clip it to a belt.
A Mobile 2.0 basic subscription costs $39.95, and optional fall detection adds $10 more. In addition to paying the extra charge, you must also wear a fall detection pendant with your Mobile 2.0. If you wonder why some customers prefer this arrangement to an all-in-one wearable, the answer is “Couples.”
As with Medical Guardian’s home-based plans, a couple can piggyback on a single Mobile 2.0 subscription by purchasing an inexpensive extra pendant. This arrangement can save a couple $600 per year compared to purchasing two all-in-one devices. As long as both members remain relatively close together, either can use the Mobile 2.0 to summon assistance.
There’s one more handy use for the pendant: You can wear it while the Mobile 2.0 sits in its charger.
Medical Guardian All-in-One Wearable Device: The Mini Guardian
The Mini Guardian is Medical Guardian’s all-in-one wearable with two-way talking and GPS. The device measures 2.7 inches by 1.4 inches and weighs 1.3 ounces.
Users should wear the Mini Guardian as a pendant. A monthly subscription matches the Mobile 2.0 — $39.95 for the base plan and $49.95 for fall detection — but does not require a second device for fall coverage.
You can wear the Mini Guardian in the shower, but the device is not meant for long submersion in a bathtub. Compared with the Mobile 2.0, the Mini Guardian comes with one expensive drawback: Couples may not piggyback on a single subscription.
Medical Guardian Senior-Friendly Smartwatch: The MG Move
Medical Guardian’s MG Move is a large-dialed smartwatch that borrows some features from Apple and Android devices without the need to pair the unit to a smartphone. With an integrated step counter and weather reports, the company aims this product at active seniors.
The MG Move sells for $199.95 and requires a $39.95 per-month subscription fee. For its primary mission, one-touch medical alerts, the MG Move sports a prominent red button at the nine o’clock position on the watch’s perimeter. If you press the button by accident, you can tap the red “Cancel” button on the watch face to end the help request.
Users who can navigate Medical Guardian’s web portal can program the MG Move with reminders for appointments or medication doses. In addition to an on-screen message, the reminder function supplies a noticeable vibration.
If a wearer has set up a Call Chain of family and friends, the members can text concise messages with one-touch reply options.
For any adult who wishes to check in with an aging parent, this feature beats phone calls, conventional text messages, and emails hands down. Best of all, there’s no learning curve for the message recipient.
While Medical Guardian offers two watchband sizes, some online reviewers have complained that even the small band falls off of some wrists. If you like the MG Move and have a slender wrist, consider wearing a terrycloth sweatband under the wristband.
As a device intended for wearing on the wrist, there is no fall detection option for the MG Move.
Medical Guardian User Reviews
Over nine years, more than 700 persons have posted Medical Guardian reviews on TrustPilot, with 53% scoring the service as “Excellent” and 23% ranking the company at “Great.” Nonetheless, more recent reviews are far more critical, putting the company’s TrustScore at a dismal 1.3 on TrustPilot’s five-point scale.
Medical Guardian also sells three of its five products on Amazon, where verified purchasers give the company’s offerings four out of five stars. Ease of setup has helped Medical Guardian build a high Amazon ranking.
Two-thirds of Amazon’s reviewers rate the Mini Guardian wearable at five stars.
Billing issues remain a sore point for several Medical Guardian customers.
Review of Alternatives to Medical Guardian
The medical alert service segment is highly competitive. Here are three competitors to Medical Guardian with plans worth examining.
Lifeline pioneered home medical alert systems in 1974 and may well be the first brand name the public associates with these services. Lifeline markets a more streamlined product line than Medical Guardian.
- Home-Based Systems: Lifeline’s HomeSafe Standard base stations omit fall detection and cost $29.95 per month for a landline unit and $43.95 each month for cellular service. HomeSafe AutoAlert base stations include Lifeline’s fall detection technology and cost $44.95 and $58.95 for landline and cellular versions. Outside of Lifeline’s entry-level base station, these subscription prices run $9 to $14 per month higher than Medical Guardian’s comparable products.
- Wearables: Lifeline’s sole all-in-one wearable, the On the Go, closely aligns with the specs of Medical Guardian’s Mini Guardian on a device that is an eyelash bigger and heavier. The On the Go includes fall detection in all units and matches the comparable Mini Guardian model with a $49.95 per-month subscription price. Unlike the Mini Guardian, the On the Go requires a one-time $99.95 activation fee.
- Extras: Lifeline’s Care Circle parallels Medical Guardian’s Call Chains, allowing subscribers to define roles for friends and family when a need for assistance arises. Lifeline also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee period, a rarity in this market.
Favorable reviews and a competitive monthly price make Lifeline’s On the Go worthy of serious consideration for anyone needing a wearable with fall detection, even allowing for the high activation charge.
Corporate security firm Bay Alarm opened for business a year after World War II ended. The company entered the home medical alert market in 2007 and now offers a product range that closely aligns with Medical Guardian.
- Home-Based Systems: For a landline in-home system without fall detection, Bay Alarm Medical undercuts Medical Guardian by $10.00 per month. Move up to a cellular in-home system with fall detection, and the two companies’ monthly prices align to the penny at $44.95.
- Wearables: Bay Alarm’s Mobile Lite and Mobile Plus all-in-one systems compete with the Mini Guardian, undercutting both versions of Medical Guardian’s product by $10 per month. Unlike Medical Guardian, Bay Alarm Medical charges a $79 activation fee for its all-in-ones. With its Mobile line, Bay Alarm Medical recommends that customers with pacemakers keep the unit below their waists in a pants pocket. Wearing the device in this position substantially erodes the accuracy of the unit’s fall detection circuitry.
- Extras: The SOS Smartwatch is Bay Alarm Medical’s answer to the MG Move. At $159, the SOS is $40 less expensive than the MG Move, and the SOS’s $29.95 per month subscription price is less than Medical Guardian’s entry by $10. Nonetheless, the SOS’s lower price also comes with lesser capability. Bay Alarm Medical’s watch includes a step counter but does not match the MG Move’s slick messaging and reminder functions.
Seniors who don’t have a pacemaker but do want a capable all-in-one wearable should take a close look at Bay Alarm Medical’s Mobile Lite and Mobile Plus products.
Founded in 2013, One Call Alert makes waves in the medical alert market with aggressive pricing. Over a decade, the company has earned a customer base of over 100,000.
- Home-Based Systems: For basic base station service, the Texas-based company’s In-Home Landline product is cheaper than Medical Guardian’s Classic Guardian by $5 per month. Buyers should note that the In-Home Landline’s 600-foot reception range is less than half of Medical Guardian’s comparable product.
- Wearables: One Call Alert’s Mobile On-the-Go aligns with Medical Guardian’s Mobile 2.0, a portable base station unit augmented by lightweight pendants. Mobile On-the-Go costs $2 per month less than Medical Guardian’s comparable product and matches the Mobile 2.0’s $10 per month cost for fall detection. One Call Alert reserves its most aggressive pricing for couples: two Mobile On-the-Go units bundled for $44.95 per month. This combined package is only $5 more than Medical Guardian charges for a single Mobile 2.0 subscription.
- Extras: One Call Alert does not charge an activation for any of its devices. The Texas company charges a single $29.95 fee for a lockbox, but some bundles include this useful add-on for free.
For couples where both members need a wearable medical alert device, One Call Alert’s Mobile On-the-Go bundle offers a compelling value.
Medical Guardian Review: Worthy of Consideration and Caution
Before subscribing to any alert service, customers should consider some precautions. If one of your credit cards offers a merchant-block option, use this account to purchase your plan. This step gives you some leverage if a billing dispute arises.
Similarly, while Medical Guardian offers enticing discounts for an annual plan, our advice is to go with monthly payments. This avoids the difficulty of extracting a pro-rated refund if you decide to cancel the service within one year. If an annual plan remains irresistible, save all of the original packaging in the event you decide to ship the unit back.
Medical Guardian earned its status in this segment by marketing devices with easy setups. The Philadelphia-based company’s compact and capable Mini Guardian belongs on a wearables shortlist. Likewise, the MG Move can stake a claim as the smartwatch with the best balance of features and ease of use.
Click here to see Medical Guardian’s devices and services for yourself.