08 Oct 2019 Timing is Crucial for a Medical Alert SOS
Nobody will argue that an SOS function on a medical alert device, whereby a senior (the victim) can summon help, is valuable. However, there are differences between different devices concerning the time between when an SOS call for help is activated and help arrives for the victim.
Particularly for a medical emergency, such as a fall, the longer the time between SOS activation and when help arrives the higher the probability that the victim will suffer serious medical consequences or even die. Thus first responders need to get to the person who activated the SOS as quickly as possible.
We can break the time between SOS activation and the arrival of help into several segments: the time it takes for the medical alert call center operator to answer the SOS; the delay between when the call center operator receives the SOS, determines the emergency and calls and relays the information to a local 911 dispatcher; and the time it takes a person to get to the victim. The latter time is controlled by 911 response, but the times regarding reaching a call center operator and that operator contacting and conveying information to 911 is dependent on which medical alert device is being used.
A recent Washington Post article (Feb. 25, 2019) tested nine popular monitored medical alert devices for the time it took for a call center operator to respond to an SOS. The average wait times for a response were 23 seconds to 1:23 minutes and the longest wait times were 1:01 minutes to 3:21 minutes. In an emergency, just a few minutes can mean the difference between life and death of the victim. And remember – these times do NOT include the 911 response time, which can add several more minutes.
One way to mitigate the problem is to have devices or apps that go beyond only contacting a call center in case of emergency. For example, having an SOS alert people on the SOS sender’s caregiver list in addition to a call center. An example of an app that does just this, working with Amazon’s Alexa, is GoFind’s VoiceR (www.voicer.life) and there are other medical alert devices on the market that have similar capability.
The bottom line – all medical alert devices with SOS functionality are not alike. If looking to purchase one, do your homework and choose a unit with good (i.e., rapid) response times. Research the available devices and read neutral, third-party evaluations prior to making a decision.