How a Typical Medical Monitoring System Works

This is an introduction to the typical system features of a medical alert monitoring system. It's designed to go over the basics so you can become familiar with how these systems function. It's also available in video format.

both-unitsThese are two examples of typical medical monitoring devices that you may find while searching for the right service provider. These models both provide the two-way voice feature, made popular in the industry by Life Alert systems, with the phrase “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

The main components of the system are the main table-top unit and the remote transmitter that can be usually worn around the neck, on a belt, or even as a wrist watch.

Let’s take a look at the main features that these systems provide. We will focus on the popular Linear Personal Emergency Reporting System, that is used by many providers, including LifeStation.

ul-device-plugThis medical alert system is UL Listed as a home healthcare signaling device, which means that it has been tested and certified by one of the most respected independent testing agencies in the world.

Since these systems are programmable, they may function differently than described here. Your service provider will pre-program your system to their standards and specifications to ensure that your system will work properly.

linear-up-closeAs you can see, the table-top unit looks like a large answering machine with three buttons, that are molded with Braille characters for the visually impaired. The first and most obvious is the large round, Emergency button.

When this button is pressed and momentarily held, the console may announce “emergency,” make a tone sound through its speaker, or some other feature, depending on your provider. Its Sending light will flash while it’s sending your loved one’s account information to the central station operator.

watch-pressedWhen the portable wrist or other wall mounted device is pressed for at least two seconds, the same sequence of events, will occur. If your system has a clear or cancel button, that will usually stop the local sounder, if programmed, and send in “cancel” signal to the monitoring station. How the monitoring station will react to the cancel request is company specific and will be outlined in your instruction manual.

When the signal has been received and acknowledged, (this happens rather quickly), the unit will stop making any local noises, so the central station operator, and your loved one, can talk hands-free. This is one of the best features of these systems. When you or your loved on can talk to the central station operator, comfort and more customized emergency service can be provided. Don’t get a system without two-way voice!


linear-buttonsThe last button on this system is the Home button. This button is used for Activity Monitoring, or the Activity Assurance option offered by Life Station. How this feature works is simple. You or your loved one must press the Home button once every 24 hours. What does this do? It lets the system know that you are ok and not to send and “inactivity” alarm to the monitoring station.

But you’re saying to yourself, “I’m not going to remember to do that?” or “My mom is going to forget.” Don’t worry, the system will remember for you. On the unit is a Home light. This light will be on showing that the activity timer is running. The Home light will blink and a short beep tone will sound every ten seconds when less than 15 minutes remain before the system sends the inactivity alarm. Once the button is press, the timer will reset for another 24 hours. This feature provides greater independence by letting caregivers know you are ok, everyday. This is peace of mind that can be enjoyed by all!


linear-lightsThere are two more lights on the unit. The first, is the power light. This does the obvious: it tells you the unit is getting power from your house plug. It also tells a few more very important things. 1. it will blink slowly when the back-up battery is charging. 2. it will blink quickly when there is a power loss and your system is running on your back-up battery. 3. the light is off when there is a power loss and your back-up battery has used all its available power.

It may also be off if it’s in test or set-up mode. You should never be in either, unless instructed by your service provider. Call them immediately if you find the power light off, the unit is properly plugged in, and the plug your plugged into has power. That may indicate another problem with the unit.

The final light on the unit is the Trouble light. If this light is off, then you know your system is operating properly with no problems. The light will turn on if any of your watch, pendant, or other buttons are missing or out of range for a predetermined time set-up in the system. If one of the buttons has a low battery, the trouble light will blink slowly. You must contact your service provider immediately if any of these trouble conditions exist. You should be able to contact your provider 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if you have trouble. If you can’t, get another company.

Next: Basic Set-Up Guide