Traditional medical alert systems can get help when you have an accident at home. But now you can also buy mobile devices, including GreatCall Splash and Mobile Help Solo, that promise to connect you with a rescue team for medical emergencies that happen when you’re out and about.

They do that in two ways. First, mobile medical alerts link you to an emergency call center with the push of a button. Second, if you’re unable to talk or you’re lost, the devices use GPS (Global Positioning System) to find you.

That sounds reassuring. But given the fact that most falls and medical emergencies occur in the home, according to the National Safety Council, mobile medical alert systems have a notable drawback: They might not work as well as a traditional system indoors, where cellular connections tend to be weaker. Also, the GPS feature might not function well indoors.

So if you don’t have good wireless coverage in your home, a mobile medical alert system, such as Bay Alarm Mobile GPS, GreatCall Splash, and LifeStation Mobile GPS, might not be right for you.

In addition, the devices need to be recharged often, and they usually cost more than home-based systems. And last, a cell phone with an emergency call feature provides one of the same benefits of a mobile medical alert.

Still, the one-button simplicity and GPS can be appealing, especially if you’re at higher risk for falls or have a chronic health condition—and spend time away from home alone. Mobile alerts “can give a sense of security,” says Alfred Sacchetti, M.D., a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Important Features

The experts we consulted recommend looking for a mobile medical alert system that has all or most of these features:

  • A cellular phone network that works well in your area. (Find out how Consumer Reports rated cell-phone carriers by city.)
  • A 3G or 4G network.
  • Easy-to-use buttons.
  • A neck pendant or belt clip to hold it.
  • Its own U.S. monitoring center, with trained emergency operators (rather than an outside contractor).
  • A monitoring center certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

The Lowdown on 5 Leading Systems

The mobile medical alert systems below are handheld, weigh about 2 ounces each, and offer neck pendants or belt holders, which may cost extra. These GPS-enabled devices have 3G service and two-way speaker-phone communication around the clock. In all cases, an operator will call someone in your contact group and get emergency help if needed. Tip: When you call to order a system, have a printout of prices and terms from websites handy. Prices for these systems fluctuate, and that information will help you haggle, especially if you're dealing with an aggressive salesperson.

Bay Alarm Medical Mobile GPS

Monthly service cost: $40
Device and activation fee:
$80 plus shipping
Minimum obligation:
None
Cancellation policy:
Full refund if returned within first 14 days
Network provider:
T-Mobile
Water-resistant:
No
Fall detection:
No
Battery life:
Up to 3 days
Monitoring center:
Outside contractor
UL-listed center:
Yes
Contact information:
bayalarmmedical.com; 877-522-9633

GreatCall Splash

Monthly service cost: $20; $35 with fall detection
Device and activation fee:
$85 plus shipping
Minimum obligation:
30 days
Cancellation policy:
Service, device, and activation fees are refundable within first 30 days
Network provider:
Verizon
Water-resistant:
Yes
Fall detection:
Yes
Battery life:
Up to 4 days
Monitoring center:
In-house
UL-listed center:
No
Contact information: greatcall.com; 800-650-5921

LifeStation Mobile GPS

Monthly service cost: $30
Device and activation fee:
$50
Minimum obligation:
None
Cancellation policy:
Full refund if returned within first 14 days
Network provider:
T-Mobile
Water-resistant:
Yes
Fall detection:
No
Battery life:
Up to 36 hours
Monitoring center:
In-house
UL-listed center:
Yes
Contact information:
lifestation.com; 855-701-0968

Medical Guardian Premium

Monthly service cost: $50
Device and activation fee:
None
Minimum obligation:
3 months
Cancellation policy:
$50 restocking fee if returned within first 10 days
Network provider: AT&T
Water-resistant:
Yes
Fall detection:
Yes
Battery life:
Up to 36 hours
Monitoring center:
Outside contractor
UL-listed center:
Yes
Contact information:
medicalguardian.com; 800-724-5845

Mobile Help Solo

Monthly service cost: $38
Device and activation fee:
None
Minimum obligation:
None
Cancellation policy:
Cancel anytime and pay only for time used
Network provider:
AT&T
Water-resistant:
Neck pendant only
Fall detection:
Available separately
Battery life:
Up to 30 hours
Monitoring center:
Outside contractor
UL-listed center:
Yes
Contact information: mobilehelp.com; 800-992-0616

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