Bay Alarm Medical vs GreatCall

Medical alert devices are quickly becoming must-haves among seniors who want to remain independent while enjoying the added protection of a 24/7 emergency help button. Although these small, wireless devices can’t actually prevent falls or medical emergencies, they can dramatically improve the outcome for seniors who may otherwise be unable to reach a phone to call for help.

COVID-19 Update: Medical Alerts are considered essential devices during the COVID crisis, so monitoring and customer service centers are still open and ready to help. To learn more about how these and other essential products can keep older adults safe and connected during this crisis, take a look at our list of 10 essential products.

Our Side by Side Comparison

Today there are dozens of medical alert companies offering an ever-increasing array of help buttons, pendants and emergency call devices. While all these choices may make it easier to find a solution that fits your needs and budget, sorting through all the plans, providers and marketing lingo can be overwhelming.

To help you narrow down your choices, our team of senior care experts has carefully researched all the latest help buttons, monitoring services and optional features offered by the top medical alert companies. Today we’re comparing Bay Alarm Medical with GreatCall.

We discovered that there are significant differences between these two companies, including the monthly monitoring costs, types of help buttons offered and overall reliability. We found that Bay Alarm Medical is clearly the best choice for consumers of all ages when compared to GreatCall thanks to Bay Alarm’s consistently positive user reviews, innovative devices and affordable plans.

In the table below you can see the differences between these two companies, while our in-depth company reviews provide additional information about the services, features and pros and cons.

Bay Alarm Medical GreatCall

COSTS

Up-Front Equipment

$0-$79

$49.99

Monthly Monitoring

$24.95-$59.95

$14.99-$39.99

Activation Fee

$0

$25-$35

CONTRACT

Long-Term Contract?

No

No

Optional Monthly Add-Ons

Fall detection +$10/month

N/A

FEATURES

Water-Resistant Wearable Devices

Yes

Yes

Fall Detection

Yes

Yes

GPS Location Monitoring Available?

Yes

Yes

Mobile App/Online Dashboard

Yes

Yes

RELIABILITY/PERFORMANCE

Connection

Landline or cellular (AT&T 4G/LTE)

4G/LTE cellular (AT&T network)

Range (From in-home base unit for landline service)

800′-1000′

N/A

Battery Life on Help Button

Up to two years on fall detection pendant

Up to five years on standard help buttons

Battery Back-up on Base Unit

Up to 32 hours

N/A

OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES

Wall-mounted HELP buttons

Additional call button for a roommate or spouse

N/A

Overview of Bay Alarm Medical

Headquartered in California, Bay Alarm Medical is an established provider of medical alert and home security systems. The company consistently ranks as one of the best in the industry, and they offer a wide range of devices geared not only towards seniors but to subscribers of all ages.

Bay Alarm Medical’s systems range from basic in-home, landline-based units that start at $19.95 per month, which includes a speakerphone-equipped base unit and a wearable call button. Subscribers can order two wireless wall buttons for an additional $4.95 per month, and four wall buttons for $9.95 per month.

Mobile options include the 4G LTE help button that users purchase outright for $79 and pay a monthly monitoring fee ranging from $24.95 to $39.95. This device works on the AT&T cellular network, and the higher-priced service options include automatic fall detection, a caregiver app with GPS locating and free ground shipping.

Bay Alarm Medical also has an innovative in-car emergency call button that combines GPS tracking with advanced crash protection for $29.95 per month. Users simply plug the unit into the 12V outlet of any vehicle. If a crash is detected the unit automatically contacts the emergency response center, activates the speakerphone and pinpoints the exact location of the subscriber in order to dispatch first responders. The in-car device also comes with an app that authorized users can access to set up a geo-fence, which sends a notification if the vehicle travels outside a predetermined area, making this device popular with parents of young drivers.

Pros of Bay Alarm Medical:

  • Offers a wide variety of medical alert systems and devices to meet the needs of most users
  • The In-Home and 4G LTE systems are manufactured in the United States
  • Subscribers can choose their own emergency contacts that the call center reaches if the help button is activated
  • Optional Bella Charms allow users to customize their medical alert pendants
  • Wearable devices are water-resistant and safe for use in the shower or bath
  • Free spouse monitoring with the purchase of a second help button
  • No activation fees
  • Equipment is included in monthly costs
  • Vial of Life included with every new subscription

Cons of Bay Alarm:

  • Bay Alarm Medical contracts out its call-answer service to a third-party provider
  • The fall detection feature is not 100% accurate and may send false alarms or fail to work properly all of the time

Overview of GreatCall

Owned and operated by electronics retailer Best Buy, GreatCall is the company behind the widely advertised Jitterbug lineup of senior-orientated cell phones promoted by celebrity pitchman John Walsh. GreatCall has two medical alert devices, the Lively Mobile and the Lively Wearable, and each is waterproof and safe for use in the shower. Both devices connect to GreatCall’s 5Star Urgent Response center when the user activates the help button, and subscribers can add the Urgent Care feature which includes phone access to a registered nurse or board-certified physician.

Lively Mobile is an all-in-one medical alert pendant equipped with GPS, a cellular SIM card, a microphone, speaker and help button. The device costs $49.99 to purchase and service includes fall detection and location tracking to help first responders locate a subscriber in an emergency.

Lively Wearable is a small help button that can be mounted on a watch-style wrist band or worn as a pendant around the neck. It uses Bluetooth technology to sync with the subscribers’ compatible late-model Android or Apple smartphone in order to connect with the GreatCall emergency response center. The Lively Wearable also includes access to GreatCall Link, a smartphone app that sends trusted caregivers a notice if the subscriber activates their help button.

Pros of GreatCall:

  • GreatCall often has time-limited sales and offers, particularly during the holiday shopping season
  • The Lively Wearable device offers users a unique and lightweight wrist-wearable alternative to other medical smartwatches and help pendants that also serves as a basic fitness tracker
  • GreatCall’s Refer-a-Friend program pays a $25 referral credit
  • All GreatCall devices are waterproof and safe for wear in the shower
  • The GreatCall Lively never needs charging thanks to the built-in, user-replaceable lithium coin batter
  • GreatCall’s Lively Wearable help button can be worn like a watch or as a pendant
  • All GreatCall’s U.S.-based emergency operators are trained in CPR and certified by the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch
  • Emergency call center provides support in over 100 languages using a translation service
  • GreatCall subscribers can add detailed medical information to their profile for use in an emergency
  • The Lively Mobile Plus device includes fall detection, GPS locating and operates on a 4G LTE network with CDMA fallback support to maintain service in areas without 4G mobile coverage
  • Monthly monitoring plans for the GreatCall Lively Wearable start at just $14.99 while the Lively Mobile Plus plans start at $24.95
  • GreatCall Link is a mobile app that sends automatic user status updates to authorized caregivers, family and friends
  • The Urgent Care option provides subscribers with instant access to board-certified doctors and registered nurses who can prescribe some medications without an in-office visit

Cons of GreatCall:

  • The company has had ongoing issues related to device availability and reliability
  • To use the Lively Wearable device, users must have a smartphone that operates on Android 4.4 or iOS 8.0 or later with an active data plan, and the phone must be kept close to the user at all times
  • Customers must pay for the help buttons
  • GreatCall charges an activation fee
  • Subscribers with limited vision or dexterity may have trouble replacing the lithium coin battery in the Lively Wearable
  • The Lively Mobile Plus device needs to be recharged every 80 hours or less

Our Pick

Bay Alarm Medical and GreatCall are among the most-established names in the medical alert industry, and each company offers comparable emergency monitoring services. That said, we recommend Bay Alarm Medical over GreatCall due to a number of issues GreatCall has experienced related to device reliability and availability. The GreatCall Lively Mobile Plus device was recalled at one point because the fall-detection function didn’t work properly, and since that time, GreatCall has struggled to keep its devices in stock. This lack of device availability may be a sign that the company isn’t fully committed to its medical alert services, and we are concerned that users may wind up purchasing devices that aren’t supported by GreatCall in the future.

Supply issues aside, it’s worth noting that the monthly monitoring plans for GreatCall’s Lively Wearable start at just $14.95, which is on target with the entry-level plan from Bay Alarm Medical. By comparison, Bay Alarm doesn’t charge an up-front fee for many of their devices like GreatCall does. We also like that Bay Alarm has a wide variety of devices targeted to a broad range of users, including youth, people with disabilities and parents, while GreatCall is clearly marketed towards seniors. Older people who may dislike the stigma associated with emergency help buttons may feel more comfortable using an intergenerational system from Bay Alarm Medical.

Despite the concerns we have with GreatCall’s devices, higher costs and senior-focused service, we do appreciate the fact that the company’s optional Urgent Care feature could be valuable to some subscribers. This service may be a good option for those who want to be able to speak with a registered nurse or board-certified physician without making an appointment or having to travel to a medical office.

Overall, it’s clear that Bay Alarm Medical’s devices and plan options are superior to those offered by GreatCall, particularly when it comes to user-friendly features, reliability and product support. We’re particularly impressed by the fact that Bay Alarm Medical offers innovative devices that provide safety solutions to users of all ages rather than targeting their services to seniors only.

Compare Other Medical Alert Systems

Bay Alarm Medical and Greatcall are just two of the dozens of medical alert systems on the market today. To find out more about other help button systems and emergency call devices, click here to read more medical alert reviews.