Pros / The call response time was very fast.
Cons / The pricing structure is average.
Verdict / Medical Guardian has some excellent medical alert packages and the emergency response performance was very good, but the pricing needs to be more competitive.
Medical Guardian (1-800-745-1200) has six packages of medical alert systems – the Classic Guardian, Home Guardian, Family Guardian, Mobile Guardian, Active Guardian and Freedom Guardian. We ordered and tested the Classic Guardian, an in-home landline system, and the Active Guardian, a mobile system with fall detection. It's worth noting, however, the Home Guardian is the MobileHelp CBS-02, a very popular cellular in-home system and the Mobile Guardian is also a MobileHelp device.
In my tests, Medical Guardian earned my pick for best emergency response performance. This performance includes the response speed, call-in-progress quality and emergency responder quality.
The pricing structure of the packages isn't expensive, but it isn't competitive either. In fact, the prices are right around the market average. For example, the Classic Guardian is $29.95 per month and the market average is $28 per month. However, Bay Alarm Medical and Medical Alert both offer landline medical alert systems at $20 per month. The mobile device starts at $39.95 per month, also $2 over the market average. The Active Guardian is $47.95 per month, a $2 improvement on the market average. Of course, GreatCall's Lively Mobile starts at $25 per month and costs $39.99 with fall detection.
Emergency Response Performance
Medical Guardian's call response time was very fast, receiving an A- with an average speed tied with two other services as the second fastest response time. It averaged about 28 seconds from the moment I pressed the help button to the moment an operator answered. By comparison, the overall average call response time (averaging all the services together) was 47 seconds. Some services averaged more than 90 seconds. However, despite its impressive speed, GreatCall was still twice as fast.
The call-in-progress quality of Medical Guardian's mobile and in-home system are excellent. The systems always indicate a call is active. It may seem like a small detail, but it's surprising how many systems I tested didn't make any indication a call was active. With several service's mobile devices, I could feel my own anxiety increase because I didn't know if a call was active until they answered, as the devices made no sound after I pressed the help button. It's not farfetched to imagine how this silence could induce panic in a senior with a real emergency.
The quality of Medical Guardian's emergency responders is what stands apart. I never had a single bad call in my tests. The tone of the operators was always calm, clear and friendly. They never sounded complacent or in a rush to end the call. And while they read from a script, just like every response center, the responders didn't sound scripted. They each asked at least twice if I was okay or needed help. And they always confirmed my information and ended each call by thanking me for testing the device.
After three weeks of comparing every service's emergency response center, it became easy to spot the services I'd want my 92-year old grandmother to interact with in an emergency. These services provide a calming call experience designed to ease the common anxiety associated with calling an emergency number. In fact, many seniors don't press the help button on medical alert devices because of this anxiety. I felt the same anxiety, as did others in the test lab. A quality call center with quality responders and a quality script like the one Medical Guardian uses goes a long way towards alleviating those concerns.
The Active Guardian's speaker received a B+ grade for quality. There were some minor clarity issues, but this could have been the result of the cellular connection with the emergency call center, as the quality seemed to fluctuate some from call to call. Overall though, I had no problem communicating effectively with the emergency responders.
The Classic Guardian has been one of the best in-home systems for many years, in part because it has the longest wireless range. However, I've de-emphasized the pendant range, because if your loved one is active enough to roam 1,300 feet from the base station, they really should be using a mobile medical alert system. As such, I've turned my focus to the quality of the speaker quality and maximum volume, since communication with emergency responders is critical. Even with this shift in focus, the Classic Guardian is among the best performing in-home systems with a very clear speaker and the loudest volume is the highest in my test, averaging 91-dB.
Medical Guardian's Family Guardian is a unique package. It combines the Classic Guardian with motion detectors and a smartphone app. The purpose of this medical alert system is to monitor your loved one's activity. It's provides updates of your loved one's movements throughout the day. You also receive alerts if your loved one presses the help button. You can get alerts for night wandering, falls, low activity and doors left open. It's ideal for families with loved ones dealing with dementia or needing additional monitoring.
Additional Services & Add-Ons
At the 2018 CES, Medical Guardian announced the Freedom Guardian, a medical alert smartwatch. At the same consumer electronics show, MobileHelp also announced its smartwatch. I tested both.
Both are impressive and worth considering, especially if your loved one doesn't like the idea of wearing a medical alert device. It's not uncommon for seniors to resist medical alerts, as there is a stigma associated with these devices. Many seniors don't want others to think they may need help. With a medical alert smartwatch, nobody is going to view the watch as anything other than a watch. Plus, these devices offer pragmatic features your loved one might enjoy using regardless of the medical alert features, like displaying text messages, appointment alerts, weather updates and fitness tracking.
Compared to the MobileHelp Smart, the Freedom Guardian is the simpler, less stylish option. It only has two buttons, very few screens and no fitness and health tracking capabilities. But it costs much less upfront, a one-time fee of $99 compared to MobileHelp's $350 price tag. However, it's worth noting you have to return the Freedom when you cancel the service, but you are purchasing the MobileHelp Smart outright and can use it as a full-smartwatch, even after you cancel your service with MobileHelp. That said, the Freedom Guardian is far easier to use. As such, it's the better option if your loved one isn't particularly tech adept, but still capable. If your loved one loves technology and is proficient with a smartphone, the MobileHelp Smart is the better option.
The Freedom Guardian does have a few issues worth considering. For starters, it's not very stylish and it's considerably thicker than most watches, so there's greater risk of it snagging on things. Next, the display is very sensitive. I like how a voice (from the watch) announces the time when you touch the clock, but the sensitivity of the screen became increasingly annoying over the two days I tested the watch, as it became too easy to activate the voice whenever anything brushed up against it. This sensitivity also applies to the help screen. If the watch's display is on the help screen, it only takes a light brush to call for help. Fortunately, it has a cancel button, allowing you to cancel the call before an operator answers.
Finally, it comes with a companion app, which can be used by you and your loved one. It connects everyone in their circle, allowing you to track their movements, text message them and get notifications if they called for help. You can also monitor the watches battery, Wi-Fi and cellular connections from the app. It's an excellent tool for making sure you're in the loop.
Even if these systems aren't manufactured by Medical Guardian, the systems offered by this medical alert service are very good. In addition, the call response time was impressive, though not as impressive as GreatCall. Medical Guardian is among the best medical alert services, but the pricing isn't enough to put them at the top.
To speak to a Medical Guardian representative for more details, call 1-800-745-1200.