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Personal Alert System vs. Medical Alert Systems: What’s the difference?

It is a common misunderstanding to think that medical alert systems and personal alert systems are the same thing. While they both are designed to give seniors a reliable way of calling for help, they are not the same thing.


While both systems are different, they have a lot of similarities. How do you know which system is right for you?

The medical alert and personal alert systems are both designed to help seniors stay independent and self-sufficient in their own homes, but with access to professional help in the case of an emergency.

Both systems include two basic components that make them function:


Battery-powered transmitters are typically waterproof and designed to be worn on a lanyard around the neck, on the wrist or wheelchair, or clipped to a belt. Most transmitters have an emergency “help” button and also allow two-way communication so the wearer can describe the emergency.

Base or console

The transmitter communicates wirelessly to the base station, which is typically connected to a standard landline phone line. In the event of an emergency, the base station dials up a call center and/or pre-programmed phone numbers of family or friends.


The biggest difference between the two types of systems is the person on the other end of the line when you call in the case of an emergency. 

Medical alert systems

When you purchase a medical alert system, you can also sign up for a monitoring service. The monitoring service is a professional monitoring system with trained personnel who will call for emergency help when you are not able to. When you go through a monitoring service, you are typically leasing your medical alert system and paying a monthly fee. Depending on the provider, some companies require a monthly or long-term contract that comes with additional fees. The fees for equipment rental and the call center monitoring service ranges from $25 to $50 per month. 

Personal alert system

Personal alert systems are used to contact your personal list of family and loved ones in the case of an emergency. When you purchase a personal alert system, you supply a list of contacts whom you want to be notified if something happens to you. 

Once your system is activated, the base system will continually call the emergency numbers until someone answers. If no one answers, 911 is contacted. The number of phone numbers and calling cycles available to you varies based on the model. Prices of personal alert systems range from around $150 to $300, but they come with no monthly fees.  

Medical alert or personal alert: how to pick

While people of all ages can benefit from a medical or personal alert system, they are most commonly used for seniors who want to maintain their independence and live alone, while also, remaining active.

When it comes to deciding which type of system is the best fit for you or your loved one, there are some features or factors that should be considered such as, the user’s health, cost, and proximity of the support network.


The medical alert system is more expensive, but recommended for those who struggle with their health like chronic illnesses or are at a higher risk of falling. A medical alert system is recommended for those with health complications because the emergency call will always be answered promptly by a trained professional at a call center as opposed to family or friends who may take a while or be unavailable to answer.


A personal alert system can typically be purchased for less than $350 and does not come with any contracts, monthly fees, or call center service expenses. A medical alert system costs about $360 each year on average to lease. In addition to that, there are activation and monitoring service fees.

The personal alert system is the cheaper option, but does that make it the right choice for you?


If you or your loved one are in good health, a personal alert system is a great, less expensive option. The key to a successful personal alert system is having a group of friends and family who are nearby and able to respond to an emergency call if help is needed. The personal alert system is a reasonable one-time expense that allows you to connect with your support system or a 911 operator. This is ideal for people who need help in non-emergency situations.

However, if you have health complications or do not have family and friends close by, a medical alert system may be the route to take. When using a medical alert system, the process is typically as simple as pressing a single button. Atrained operator will promptly communicate with you through the pendant and call 911 to dispatch emergency services.

Medical alert systems and personal alert systems have the same purpose in the end, but they have different methods of accomplishing it. Both have similar designs and provide users with a quick, easy means of getting emergency help. If you do not have health complications and family and/or friends nearby, purchasing a personal alert system might be the best option for you. If you experience health complications and do not have family and/or friends nearby who are able to help you, a medical alert system could be the best option.

Hannah Verret
Hannah Verret is a Content Developer at Med-Alert Pros in Memphis, TN. Hannah has been working in content creation throughout her entire adult career. When Hannah isn't writing or organizing social media posts, she's spending her time reading and loving on her many pets.

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