In-Home Versus Mobile Medical Alert Systems

P. J. Aitken

Aug 22 2019

The first medical alert system sold in the US was launched by American International Telephone company in 1975, but it was rudimentary at best.

These early medical alert devices required the user to wear a heavy medallion around their neck. Whenever they were in trouble, they would press the button and this would send a preset message to several predetermined phone numbers.

These systems underwent some serious changes in the 2000s and the last few years have been hugely significant, incorporating advanced communication, GPS and mobile technology to create systems that are more advanced, more reliable and more readily available. If you’re an elderly, disabled or otherwise vulnerable person who needs one of these systems, or you’re buying for someone who does, there has never been a better time.

However, with so many different options on the market, from in-home systems to mobile ones, it can be a little confusing. In this guide, we’ll take the confusion out of the situation and show you the differences between in-home medical alert devices and a mobile alert device.

medical alert

In-Home vs Mobile Medical Alert Systems

A medical alert system sends an alert to a caregiver or medical professional when the wearer is in trouble. There are medical alert buttons that can detect when they fall or need assistance and these systems typically fall into one of two categories:


An in-home medical alert system is also known as a landline system as it connects to the user’s landline. It is a reliable alert system that keeps users protected when they are indoors, but the fact that it requires a landline puts some users off. A 2017 study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that more than half of US adults don’t own a landline, and while these tend to be younger adults who may not necessarily need a medical alert system, there are still millions of elderly and vulnerable adults who don’t have them.

Mobile Alert:

Newer medical alert systems can exploit cellular networks to provide a service that doesn’t require a landline and offers more mobility outside the home. The mobile alert system doesn’t need to remain in range of the landline, but it is dependant on a cellular network and will drop if the user doesn’t have cellular reception.

Which Option is Best for You?

In-home and mobile medical devices both have their uses and there is no clear and obvious “better” option. The one that works best for you will depend entirely on your specific needs and circumstances. Take a look at the table and questions below to see which option is suited to your needs.

medical alert systems

4 Questions to Ask Yourself

1. Do You Need Fall Detection?

The most vulnerable users of medical alert devices may require fall detection. This is provided via unique medical alert buttons that are activated as soon as the user falls. It’s an important feature if the user is at risk of regular falls and lives alone and it’s a feature provided by many different systems, including MobileHelp, who fit some of their devices with the trademarked MobileHelp Fall Button.

If you believe there is a risk of regular falls then this feature is imperative.

Recommended Fall Protection System: MobileHelp System with the MobileHelp Fall Button.

2. Do You Need a Monitored System?

You can choose between a monitored medical alert system and an unmonitored medical alert system. A monitored system will connect you with someone 24/7, allowing you to get help straight away. An unmonitored system will simply dial someone when you need help and that someone can be a friend, family member or emergency worker.

Ultimately, the main difference here is cost as monitored systems require an additional monthly service charge.

Recommended Monitored System: LifeStation

3. Does Your Area Have Bad Cellular Connectivity?

A mobile alert system relies on the cellular network. If there is no reception then it will not work.

If your area has bad cellular connectivity, you may have no choice but to opt for the in-home system. It will ensure you are covered when you’re at home, which is where most accidents occur.

If you are housebound you will also benefit more from a landline system. It can provide you with additional features and is more reliable in the event of a power outage or a lost cellular connection. A cellular system runs on battery power and needs to be charged. A landline system is connected to the main phone line and will be active even during power outages.

Recommended In-Home System: Medical Alert At-Home Landline

4. Do You Leave the House a Lot?

If you spend a lot of time outside the house then a mobile system is the best option by far. This will ensure you can wear the device when you are out-and-about. These devices connect to the cellular network and the best ones—such as those provided by LifeStation, MedicalAlert and MobileHelp—provide GPS support.

This means that an emergency team can pinpoint your exact location and hurry to help you.

Recommended Mobile System: MobileHelp Solo

Medical Alert System Buying Tips:

Before you rush off to buy your mobile or in-home medical alert system, keep the following in mind:

Look for a Discount

There is an assumption with all medical devices that the price you see is the price you pay. But that’s not necessarily the case. Manufacturers are always happy to offer deals and they run regular promotions to make their products more affordable.

We post many of these deals right here on this site, but you can also contact the manufacturer directly and see how they can help you.

Consult the Person You’re Buying for

If you’re buying a device for someone else, make sure you consult them first. Don’t simply assume that you know what’s best for them, even if you know them pretty well. Run the options by them and see which one they prefer.

They might emphasize aspects that you didn’t think about, such as discreetness. Many users also dislike the idea of having a monitored system because they’re worried they will accidentally press the button!

Ask About Volume

If you have partial hearing, you may struggle to hear the person on the other end of the device. This is something you should enquire about in advance. Let the manufacturer know that you have an issue and ask if the device will be loud enough for you to hear.

You can also try it for yourself and then send it back if it doesn’t meet your needs, assuming it has a…

Check the Return’s Policy

If the device isn’t quite what you were expecting you can just send it back, but only if they have a generous return’s policy. Many of the better companies, such as the ones listed on this site, do offer such a policy but we still recommend checking this in advance.

Summary: In-Home or Mobile?

There is room for both of these options in the current marketplace. The mobile option may seem more beneficial and advanced, but it’s not without its flaws and there are times when the in-home system will seem like a viable alternative.

Read this guide in full to determine which option is best for you and then check with our many product reviews and links to make the right purchase.

Top5 Medical Alert Systems
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