Will Your Medical Alert Work Well With a VoIP System?

Many medical alerts are still analog. This means such devices are designed to work well and flawlessly with a traditional telephone system. But new digital communications technologies (such as Voice over Internet Protocol and cable-based data and phone services) are fast-replacing traditional phone lines, and pretty soon, users of analog alert alarms might find themselves at risk for unreliable service. How is this so?

A little backgrounder first: a typical medical alert system has three parts: a wearable panic button (either worn on the wrist or around the neck), a base unit connected to a phone line, and constant 24/7 connection to the system provider’s response center. If some medical emergency occurs, the wearer presses the panic button, and the response center is instantly contacted through the base unit.

Quick real-time communication is therefore extremely crucial for this system to successfully protect the life of a loved one: any delay in the two-way communication between the person in distress and the response center can literally mean the difference between life and death. Here enters the “little” compatibility problem between analog alert systems and VoIP.

Now, the issue of compatibility is crucial. There are unscrupulous medical alert providers, whose devices can be categorized as “traditional” or essentially analog, that would still insist that their systems are completely “future-proof”-which means their devices could work whatever new communication system is introduced. In some instances-especially those medical alert companies that have specifically designed their systems specifically for digital communications technologies-they would be right. But in most instances, especially with the older providers, using their medical alert with the newer VoIP could be putting you at risk. This is because, like other digital communications technologies, VoIP is very much like the internet: it transmits data (including voice) in packets. This means the system spends a certain amount of time converting analog data (from your analog medical alert) into digital packets to be relayed to the person on the other end of the line (the response center). In most cases this would be fine-but the risk exists as possible delays between the two-way communication between the wearer in distress and the response center are not altogether eliminated.

So imagine having to wait a few seconds before the response center hears you. In a medical situation, especially serious ones (and you never know when something serious occurs), those few seconds are extremely important.

Make no mistake: there is a raging marketing war between the old telephone system and the newer Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and other related digital communications technologies. In fact, many telecommunication companies throw generous discounts just to win new customers and convince them to switch to using the new digital systems. What used to be the pricey option (cable systems) is becoming more and more commonplace. Pretty soon, VoIP would outrun analog, leaving many medical alert wearers (unaware of this difference) at a certain risk.

The fact of the matter is, of course, you should check with your medical alert provider if their devices are specifically designed for VoIP. Moreover, keep in mind that there is a distinct difference between “specifically designed for VoIP” and merely “upgraded for compatibility”: the latter might still be unreliable. The resident medical alert technician might seem at first “successful” in making these two systems compatible, but you never know its reliability until a real emergency occurs. And by then it might be too late.

In the recent past, when digital communications services were just emerging, people had no other choice but to discontinue their medical alert system subscription. For the most part, this was easy: the typical medical alert system provider does not tie-up their clients with long-term contracts. Most, if not all, require only monthly or quarterly renewals, so it was simply a matter of not renewing for the succeeding month. There are also certain devices that serve as a “bridge” between the analog medical alert and the digital VoIP, and such devices can cost extra. Not to mention they might not be a hundred percent efficient.

Chances are, you might already have been using the newer medical alert systems. But if you are not, you owe it to yourself (or to those elderly loved ones who use a medical alert system) to make sure that your telecommunication system and personal emergency alert device are designed to work faultlessly with each other.

The Need For Medical Alerts

Many people wait for an emergency to occur before buying a medical alert device. There are some, still refusing to get one, even after an incident and thus are subjected to the same trauma yet again, without hope of any help. During the crisis, the victim is at times, unable to reach the phone to dial 911,for help. This is when the medical alert devices are of great help. The best time, to save a loved one is, to gift them with a medical alert device before development of any crisis.

Timely diagnosis is crucial for effectual treatment. In case of an emergency, symptoms of ordinary ailments can easily be misdiagnosed. In such an eventuality it is of great help to the investigating medical team, if a short list of crucial medical facts are present on the medical ID. As per a study carried out, emergency responders and medical personnel look for a medical ID on the victim before going in for diagnosis. This saves precious time as well as eliminating chances of misdiagnosis. Medical Ids have helped reduce trips to hospitals, eliminate avoidable hospital admissions and many a time they have also been responsible for saving lives. An engraved medical ID bracelet or necklace giving a brief summary of conditions, medicines and allergies will help medical personnel in treatment.

Medical identification tags are available in the market as attractive bracelets, necklaces, pendants and medallions. Medical alerts are also available in the form of alert phones and alert push buttons.

Older people, prone to various health problems, physically challenged, or people, with ailments like heart attacks, strokes, allergies, pulmonary conditions, asthma, hearing or vision problems and other such diseases should have the medical alert tags with them at all times.

A medical alert should typically have details of medications being taken, any allergies a person has, physical or mental ailments and a phone number for emergency contact. A medical alert would read as Jane Smith, compulsive overeater, insulin dep. diabetic, contact: 555-555-5555.

Having A Medical Alert Service Diminishes The Fear Of Falling In Seniors

When a person falls, this can shake their confidence. Imagine a skateboarder in the park that takes a nasty spill, or a young mom in the grocery store missing the wet floor sign and slipping in front of many other customers. These people would probably feel embarrassment and start acting more cautiously about their surroundings. These feelings are common for anyone who takes a fall, but for seniors, the consequences of a fall are often much more serious than that of a younger individual. They could end up with an injury that keeps them from ever walking again, or being unable to stand on their own. Taking away their autonomy can lead them to loss of confidence and often times, severe depression. Everyone wants to have the ability to take care of him or herself. Regardless of enjoying being taken care of by others, when the ability to take care of oneself is no longer an option, this can be devastating news. They know their lives will never be the same.

A medical alert service can restore that confidence within a senior individual that has taken a fall at home. It is possible that when they fell the first time, no one was around to help them and that made them feel helpless, stuck for a much longer period of time than they should have been. This can instill not only a feeling of helplessness, but also anger; anger for the fact that they were not able to help themselves. They will be forever carrying around the thought “If only I could have done more to protect myself this would not have happened.”

When they return home from the hospital, it may have turned into a scary place for them. How can they regain confidence, autonomy and give their family members peace of mind? Well, a medical alert service will greatly help a senior achieve all of these things and more.

Patient Regains Autonomy
A medical alert service would allow the patient to move seamlessly through their home without a bulky phone in their pocket that could easily go out of range, or worrying that they may fall again and be unable to call or signal anyone for help. This can greatly change their daily routine. Without a medical alert service, they may feel too frightened to move around or just simply go about every day life. Clearly, if they fell once before, they might fall again. The fear can easily keep them from completing even simple every day tasks because of the fear that while doing them they may fall again.

In addition to the fear that they feel, the family members and other loved ones might become especially protective of them and keep them from doing much of anything. Family, or a home health care professional might now be in the house at all times. This will diminish the ability of the patient to regain autonomy even more.

With a medical alert service at the home, this will allow both the patient and their family to breath a sigh of relief and release the fear. A simple medical alert bracelet, necklace or pendant will be on the patient’s body at all times. If the awful event of a fall happens again, the patient will be able to quickly press their medical alert button and reach someone that can help them. This will easily allow the patient and their loved ones to feel confident enough to go about their regular routine as usual. Even if they do suffer another fall, help is right there for them.

Increased Confidence for the Patient
As mentioned before, after a fall many patients become fearful that it may happen again. This is especially true if it took a long time for them to receive help the first time. With a medical alert service at home, confidence can be immediately restored in the patient just by seeing a demo of how one works. When having a medical alert system installed, it is always good practice to test it out for a trial run. Most devices have a feature to test how the device is working without having to disturb the operators in the call center that need to be available for emergency calls. Simply make sure this feature is active and run through a simulation with the device so that the patient can feel comfortable and confident when using the service.

When confidence is restored in a senior that has experienced a tough fall, it leads everything else in their lives to start getting back to normal. Without confidence in their surroundings and the knowledge that if an accident does occur again, they are prepared to get the help they need, it is unlikely that they will ever be able to resume their lives as they once were. A lack of confidence and the inability to go back to the regular routine can drive them to severe depression. This can even end up cutting a person’s life short. If the patient does not feel like life is much worth living, their health will continue to deteriorate. A medical alert system can reinstate confidence in a patient, giving them the will to live again.

Peace of Mind for the Family
It is clear that autonomy, confidence and peace of mind are all dependent upon each other in this situation, so it is certainly lucky that a medical alert system can help with all three. If the family members and loved ones close to the patient lack the peace of mind necessary to feel safe leaving the patient alone, then they never will. This means that the patient is unable to regain autonomy since their family is taking care of everything for them, never allowing their confidence in themselves to rise again.

With a medical alert system in place, the patient’s family will know that if they fall again, they can quickly access help with the push of a button. Having the medical alert system in place will give the family enough peace of mind to start leaving their loved one on their own again.

Overall, a medical alert system is an invaluable service that can restore normal living practices to a senior after a scary fall. With confidence, autonomy and peace of mind restored, there is nothing that can keep them from living a happy healthy life all on their own.