Medical Alert Statistics 2024

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Medical alert devices have advanced since they first became popular in the 1980s, and there is now a wide variety of device options available. There will be a growing demand for medical alert devices in the U.S. due to the increasing demographic prominence of older adults. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest release on the aging population, nearly 21% of Americans will be over the age of 65 by 2030.

Key insights

The population is getting older. In 2030, the population over the age of 65 is expected to be a staggering 23.2% larger than it was in 2022, while the population under 18 will have decreased by 4.6%. By 2035, there will be more older adults than children, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s population projection estimate, which will be an unprecedented event in history.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than 25% of older adults fall each year, and falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults over the age of 65.

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The fall fatality rate is increasing. The age-adjusted fall fatality rate went from 55.3 per 100,000 older adults in 2012 to 78 per 100,000 older adults in 2021. That’s a jump of 41%.

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There are many different types of medical alerts today with varying functionality and features, but the devices can generally be divided into two broad categories: home-based and mobile. A medical alert device with fall detection is a sound investment for consumers who are concerned about fall prevention.

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Medical alert user demographics

By 2030, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that there will be about 71.2 million Americans aged 65 and over and only about 69.1 million Americans under the age of 18. And, for the first time ever, older adults will likely outnumber children in the U.S. by 2035.

The aging population will probably spark an uptick in demand for all products and services that are predominantly designed for seniors. It’s expected that there will be 23.2% more consumers over the age of 65 in 2030 than there were in 2022, accounting for over 20% of the population.

As the 65-plus age group gradually makes up a greater and greater share of society, medical alert devices will become go-to products for elder consumers who prefer to age in place and live independently.

A poll conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan found that while most seniors prefer to age in place, only a minority are properly prepared to do so. While 49% of seniors polled said they have at least one ‘smart home’ device, just 34% said their home definitely has the necessary features they need to continue living there. Less than 10% reported having safety technology like a medical alert device, which may mean that over 90% of seniors are at risk of sustaining serious injuries in their homes and being unable to promptly seek help.

*Data for this year is provisional.; Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023.

Fall risk factors

There are numerous extrinsic and intrinsic risk factors that contribute to falls, including biology, behavior, demographics and environment. The conditions or risk factors that may lead to falling include:

  • Weakness in the lower body
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Difficulties with walking or maintaining balance
  • Use of medicines, like tranquilizers, sedatives, antidepressants or even some over-the-counter medicines
  • Poor vision
  • Foot pain or low-quality footwear
  • Environmental hazards, such as uneven steps or items that can be tripped over, like throw rugs

Many falls do not cause injuries, but 1 in 5 falls causes a serious injury, like a broken bone or head trauma.

The rising number of deaths attributable to falls can be prevented by screening for fall risks and addressing them with a physician and/or caregiver. But early fall detection is critical to ensure that help is alerted and dispatched immediately if a fall does occur, and a medical alert device with fall detection is a sound investment choice for consumers who are personally at risk or who have loved ones at risk of falling.

Types of medical alert devices

A medical alert device, which is also referred to as a personal emergency response system (PERS), makes it easy to contact emergency services when individuals need help. There are many different types of medical alert devices today with varying functionality, but they generally fall into two broad categories.

  • Home-based: Traditional, home-based systems are equipped with a help button that connects wirelessly to a base station. These base stations can run via cellular or landline connections, and a help button can usually operate within a range of 300 to 1,400 feet from its base station. A system should have enough range to cover a user’s entire property, including their yard.
  • Mobile: These medical alert systems are suitable for seniors with active lifestyles who often find themselves away from home, and they may come in the form of necklaces, phones, watches or belts. Mobile medical alert systems typically include built-in GPS or geofencing features that aid emergency services in locating the user if an accident occurs while the user is out and about. That said, a mobile alert system’s batteries have to be routinely charged, and the devices usually run on a cellular connection, so consumers should ensure the service is supported where they live before purchasing.

Cost of medical alert systems

In a comparison of the cost of medical alert systems across top companies, ConsumerAffairs determined that consumers pay an average of just under $39 per month in ongoing medical alert system fees. This is in addition to several upfront costs.

  • Equipment fees: up to $300 (if they’re not waived as part of your monitoring contract)
  • Monthly monitoring fees: about $20 to $70 per month without add-ons (like fall detection, which usually costs about $10 more per month)
  • Activation fees: up to $200, if applicable
  • Installation fees: up to $100, if applicable

While the cost of a medical alert system may seem high, it’s a smart investment, particularly for individuals who live alone. Additionally, monitoring devices may help delay a more costly move to a long-term care facility.

Aging in place is often more affordable than the cost of assisted living, which had an average monthly price tag of $4,300 as of 2021. However, other popular aging-in-place solutions, such as walk-in tubs and stair lifts, can easily exceed $5,000.

Medical alert systems and insurance

Most types of health insurance won’t cover medical alert systems. Medical alert systems are not covered by Medicare Parts A or B or Medicare supplemental insurance (Medigap).

However, some Medicare Advantage plans (also called Part C) may reimburse certain patient groups for the cost of a wearable device. Health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs and certain kinds of long-term care insurance may also cover medical alert systems.

Market share of medical alert systems

In 2023, the U.S. market for standalone, mobile and landline medical alert systems had an estimated value of $4.1 billion. That figure is expected to increase to $4.6 billion by 2025, a growth of more than 12%. Mobile PERS hold the largest portion of the market, at about 41.5% in 2023, followed by standalone PERS at about 34.1% and landline PERS at 24.4%.

FAQ

How do medical alert devices work for someone with Alzheimer’s disease?

Medical alert devices can be particularly helpful in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, as they can facilitate two-way communication with their users. Dispatchers can use medical alert devices to talk a device user through confusing situations until help arrives. Additionally, medical alert devices have GPS tracking, which is essential if a user becomes disoriented while outside their home environment.

Is a medical alert device the same as a medical ID bracelet?

No, a medical alert device is not the same thing as a medical ID bracelet. A medical alert device can be used to alert and communicate with dispatchers during a medical emergency. Many of these devices are wearable and can be activated by voice or with the press of a button. They may also have a fall detection feature that automatically alerts emergency personnel to send help.

A medical ID bracelet simply contains information about an individual’s health conditions, like asthma, diabetes or hypertension. This information is essential if responders arrive to treat a medical emergency and are unable to communicate with the bracelet’s wearer. But a medical ID bracelet cannot be used to alert responders in the event of an emergency, and it won’t detect falls.

How long is the response time when using a medical alert device?

The average response time for a medical alert device is less than a minute.


References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Older Adult Fall Prevention.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Evaluated Dec. 19, 2023. Link Here
  2. U.S. Census Bureau. “2023 National Population Projections Tables: Alternative Scenarios.” U.S. Census Bureau. Evaluated Dec. 19, 2023. Link Here
  3. Godman H. “The latest in medical alert systems.” Harvard Health Publishing. Evaluated Jan. 3, 2024. Link Here
  4. Tanwar et al. “Pathway of Trends and Technologies in Fall Detection: A Systematic Review.” Healthcare. Evaluated Jan. 3, 2024. Link Here
  5. National Council on Aging. “6 Falls Prevention Steps to Help Your Older Loved Ones.” National Council on Aging. Evaluated Jan. 3, 2024. Link Here
  6. Stewart C. “Size of the medical alert system/personal emergency response system (PERS) market in the U.S. from 2014 to 2025, by type (in billion U.S. dollars)*.” Grand View Research. Evaluated Dec. 19, 2023. Link Here
  7. Breaux E, Peoples C. “The Best Medical Alert Systems Chosen by Our Testers.” HelpGuide.Org. Evaluated Jan. 3, 2024. Link Here
  8. Lively. “How to choose the best medical alert system.” Lively. Evaluated Jan. 3, 2024. Link Here
  9. Medical Guardian. “Difference between a medical alert & medical identification bracelets.”. Medical Guardian. Evaluated Jan. 3, 2024. Link Here
  10. Gavin K. “Most older adults want to ‘age in place’ but many haven’t taken steps to help them do so.” University of Michigan. Evaluated Jan. 3, 2024. Link Here

Figures

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Journal of Consumer Research