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An Apple Watch 4 or a Medical Alert Device: Making a Choice

More and more medical alert companies, such as GreatCall, Medical Guardian, and MobileHelp, are offering smartwatches and smartphones as medical alert devices. So what’s the difference between these medical alert devices and smartwatches such as the new Apple Watch Series 4?

The new Apple Watch Series 4 offers fall detection, an important feature of medical alert devices that uses advanced technology to sense if you have fallen and alert emergency personnel. However, there are pros and cons to both options.


With a medical alert device, you will pay a monthly fee for medical alert monitoring services at call centers. If you choose the Apple 4 watch with fall detection, you only pay the one-time cost for the watch, plus a monthly data plan if you choose. If you do fall, the Apple watch will call 911 in a medical emergency, while a medical alert device will contact a call center that has your personal health information and help you get emergency assistance if needed.

How They Work

When the Apple Watch 4 detects a fall, it will ask you to select if you are ok or not, or if you need emergency services. The only problem with this is if you are unable to see the options or find it difficult to navigate the touchscreen after you have fallen. If you don’t respond within 60 seconds, the Apple Watch will send your location to your emergency contacts and call 911 for help.

Both the Apple Watch and a medical alert system have pros and cons. The question is whether you want the safety and assurance of having a full medical alert package, with a home system and mobile system with push button for full protection and safety. With medical alert systems, you have the assurance of call centers with access to personalized health information that are available 24-7 and can offer non-emergency assistance as well. With a medical alert system, you are able to stay in your own home longer, safely.

Pros and Cons of Apple Watch 4

Another feature of the Apple Watch 4 that may appeal to seniors is a heart sensor app that can administer an EKG. The Apple Watch 4 also sports a larger display screen and a louder speaker than previous Apple watches. Like other Apple watches, it can serve as a smartphone and a fitness tracker.

However, there are other reasons why the Apple Watch 4 might not be the best option for an older person with health problems:

  • The Apple Watch is more specifically designed for younger, healthier people.
  • Physically active people can easily trigger false alarms on the Apple Watch 4.
  • It requires an iPhone 6 or later with iOS 12 or later.

Making the Choice

Regardless of what you choose, it’s important to have some sort of medical alert system in place as you age, since falls are the leading cause of death from injury among those 65 and older.

No fall detection system is fool-proof, and none will detect 100% of falls. That’s why you may find it more comforting to have a medical alert system close at hand with a button you can push if you are in trouble.


Joan Biddle
Joan Biddle
Joan Biddle is a Content Developer at Med-Alert Pros. With nearly 20 years of editing, research and writing experience, Joan crafts detailed, reliable articles that help people navigate complicated topics. She enjoys movies, reading, poetry and art.
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