What to Look for in a Personal Emergency Response System

What to Look for in a Personal Emergency Response System

Anyone can benefit from emergency alert technology – whether living with illness, remaining independent, or maintaining an energetic life. Yet some of your patients and their family caregivers may be unsure they need a personal emergency response system (PERS), or how to choose one. Use the following insights and information to help them make the best decision.

PERS Candidates
Help your patients understand how a PERS benefits them.

People with chronic medical conditions, like COPD, diabetes or arthritis may fall and require medical treatment more than others. A medical alert button helps in those emergencies and in other situations. “People can push the button because of symptoms like a headache or numb hands, too,” notes Paul Adams, senior director of product management for Philips Home Monitoring.

Healthy and independent adults benefit from a PERS, too. When out of the house and on the go, a wearable mobile alert system with a speaker and microphone enables a call for help from any location should something happen. Talk show host Leeza Gibbons got a PERS for her dad. “I know he wants to continue to be independent, but I’m also aware that things could happen and none of us in his family would know,” she says. “Dad likes to fish, and now he can even be alone in his boat on the lake, knowing that if anything were to happen, the GoSafe system would provide his location to Philips Lifeline and help would be coming.”

Cost-conscious adults and family members appreciate that alert systems can help limit or avoid medical costs, including hospital and skilled nursing admissions (and related insurance deductibles) and in-home care. For example, Philips Lifeline service  costs between $539 and $659 per year, far less than the $30,000 average cost of an admission to the hospital. While a PERS won’t negate the need for the emergency transportation or other health services, it empowers users to access them more effectively.

Personal Emergency Response Technology
Explain to your patients and their caregivers how advanced technology helps keep them safe, and review these criteria for evaluating options:

Automatic Fall Detection. “The most important reason for early fall detection is to make sure that a senior is not down for a prolonged period,” notes Andrew Duxbury, a medical doctor and professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care.  The best medical alert systems, like Philips Lifeline solutions, combine several technologies to detect many types of falls:

  1. Accelerometers recognize a high acceleration force.
  2. Sensors detect very small changes in barometric pressure.
  3. A finely tuned algorithm, based on an analysis of tens of thousands of hours of senior movement and activity, distinguishes between true falls and false alarms.

Automatic Call for Assistance. In about one-third of falls, people can’t or don’t push the medical alert button. “More than an hour or so on the floor and risk for dehydration, pressure damage to tissues and [death of muscle fibers] becomes very real,” Duxbury says. “These conditions can lead to hospitalization, debility and even death.” 

Solutions like Philips Lifeline with AutoAlert Fall Detection help reduce risk. If AutoAlert detects a fall, it automatically notifies response professionals, whether the button is pushed or not. Two-way voice communication lets PERS wearers talk directly with a trained response associate who calls emergency services if they don’t get a response back in 30 seconds.

Location Services. Sometimes a single data point isn’t sufficient to accurately identify a person’s exact location. Consider only mobile solutions that deploy multiple location technologies like these:

  1. Assisted GPS (A-GPS) uses a network of satellites to determine location.
  2. WiFi access points locate position indoors and other places where A-GPS isn’t effective.
  3. Intelligent location breadcrumbs gather and store data throughout the day and retrace the user’s steps to determine direction of travel.
  4. Audio beacons emit a loud sound to help responders pinpoint location during a ground search.

Medical Alert System Response & Reliability
Your patients and family members want to know that the service and the people behind it are reliable. Go over these important factors and encourage patients to check medical alert system reviews and other sources for data on:

  • Uptime. Less downtime means more security. Choose a solution with a good track record that can be counted on when the power is out or the weather is bad. Philips Lifeline with AutoAlert, for example, features 99.99% uptime and multiple call centers fully equipped to stay online.
  • Response Time. Seconds count so a quick response time is fundamental. A good benchmark is 14 seconds, the time in which Philips Response Center staff reacts after a button is pressed or fall is detected.
  • False Alarms. Some systems produce 8 to 20 false alarms a month, an annoyance that makes it more likely the device won’t be used. Pick a PERS that uses highly accurate technology to cut false alarms to only a few each year.
  • Quality. “Our medical alert systems are Class-2 medical devices,” Adams explains. “Our help button goes through rigorous testing and validation, and we investigate all the feedback we receive from users because we know people are counting on this device.”
  • Response Center Staff. Skilled help from someone specially trained to handle emergencies, interact with patients, and speak multiple languages is vital. Consider this: Philips Lifeline’s experienced call center staff receives 80 hours of intensive instruction in gerontology and stress management, and regular one-on-one coaching sessions and refresher training.

Use this information to help your patients evaluate and choose the best medical alert system.

See also
Caregivers

Caregivers

Are you caring for an aging parent or loved one? At times, it can be stressful, but you are not on your own! Try our expert advice for managing family issues, keeping mom independent and more. more

Healthcare Pros

Healthcare Pros

Whether you’re a nurse, case worker, doctor or another healthcare professional, you know aging patients have unique needs. Explore our resources for working with this growing population. more

Seniors

Seniors

We all get older, but how you do it is up to you. We have articles and tools to help you live independently and enjoy life the way you want to, as well as other important topics as you age. more