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Pros and Cons: Medicare Alert System or Cell Phone?

The cell phones available today have so many capabilities that people find themselves asking if they even need a medical alert system. Which one is better in an emergency? There are pros and cons that come with both choices.

Cell phones

Everyone has a cell phone now, and most people use smartphones that have seemingly endless possibilities when it comes to their capabilities. All cell phones can dial 911 or have a designated emergency button. In addition, smartphones can download apps that sync up to medical devices.

Pros of cell phones:

  • Flexible budget
  • Easily dial 911 in emergency
  • Emergency apps available for download
  • Cell phone does multiple jobs
  • Only one device to carry around
  • Travel freely with it
  • GPS location on phones

Cons of cell phones:

  • Smartphones can be confusing for some
  • Screen text too small for some to read
  • Buttons difficult for some to push
  • Expensive cell phone plans
  • Possibility of not having your cell phone during an emergency

Flexible budget

Since most people have cell phones, most are already paying the bill for their phone and the service. If you have a smartphone, you can download an app at no additional cost that can provide the same or similar service as a medical alert system.

Senior cell phones

Companies now offer cell phones that are made with medical emergencies in mind. These phones offer limited access to typical phone functions, such as making calls and sending texts, to keep things simple. More often than not, these are flip phones with only a few buttons that will allow you to dial out for help in the event of an emergency.

Multipurpose cell phone

A common worry for seniors is learning how to work a new device. Rather than getting an entirely new device that comes with a frustrating learning curve, you can download an app on the device you are already carrying with you most of the time.

GPS location

Cell phones were created to be mobile. That means when you’re using a cell phone for emergencies, you can take this lifeline with you in and out of your home. Traditionally, medical alert systems have a home base that works with a medical alert button.

However, it is becoming more common for the medical alert buttons to work outside of the home as well as in. In fact, many medical alert systems offer mobile wearable devices that you can take wherever you go.

Medical alert systems

Medical alert systems are made for one specific reason: to provide you with help in the event of an emergency. However, there are several different types of systems that allow you to not only travel outside of your home, but go on vacation as well. With all of the medical alert system options to pick from, there is one that is right for everyone.

Pros of medical alert systems:

  • Systems available for every budget
  • Options on how to carry the device (bracelet, button, pendant)
  • Most are waterproof
  • Connected to a service center that can dispatch help immediately
  • GPS location technology
  • Fall detection
  • Simple one-button devices
  • Extended battery life

Cons of medical alert systems:

  • Can have expensive service plans
  • Some devices can’t monitor activity outside of the home
  • Embarrassment of wearing a medical alert device

Simple operation

Unlike cell phones, medical alert devices and buttons are specifically designed to be simple. The medical alert button user only needs to press the button of their device in order to call for help in an emergency. A cell phone user will have to take multiple steps before calling for help, while the medical alert button is easily accessible, being worn around your wrist, neck, or waist.

Monitoring service

In addition to buying your medical alert system, you will need to sign up for a monitoring service. Monitoring services are available 24/7 with trained professionals ready to dispatch help as soon as you press your medical alert button.

When you press your medical alert button, you will be able to talk to an operator at the monitoring center that can call either 911, a doctor, children, or a caregiver.

Battery life

How many times do you charge your cell phone in a day? Some people have to charge their phones several times a day, and that can present an issue in the case of an emergency.

While cell phone batteries may not last long, the battery life of an in-home medical alert button can potentially last for years without a charge.

Small design

Not only are there style options to pick from when choosing a medical alert button, they are also typically small and lightweight to make it easier to carry them everywhere. Depending on the cell phone model that you have chosen, those can be somewhat large and heavy.

While some generations may not think twice about carrying their cell phone around with them, seniors may not have their phones so easily accessible. Therefore, in an unexpected fall, a medical alert button is the only choice that will automatically call for help in an emergency.

Use around water

Most medical alert buttons are waterproof, so they can not only be worn in a shower or bath, but also around a pool. This is a crucial feature since all of these areas increase the risk for a slip and fall.

Generally, cell phones are not waterproof and only water resistant. Most people avoid taking their phones to the pool and especially in showers and baths because water could easily ruin their expensive cell phones.

Fall detection

Some medical alert devices come with a built-in feature called fall detection. The integrated feature is able to make emergency calls when a fall is detected by the button you are wearing.

While more cell phone apps are adding the fall detection feature, they are not as easy to use as a medical alert device. The apps may require adjustments to the cell phone’s operating system in order to detect falls. In addition, most of the medical alert apps do not automatically call monitoring services like a medical alert button does.


A cell phone is something that most people already have, but if you don’t know how to work it or you don’t have it set up to help in an emergency, it is essentially useless when it matters most. A medical alert system and button are extremely simple and don’t require as much set up by the user.

There are pros and cons to both a medical alert system and a cell phone with a medical alert app. Whichever one you decide to rely on, it is crucial that you are comfortable with the device and know how to work the system.

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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