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IoT Medical Alert vs Private Monitoring: - Part 2 of 2 - How the Call to 911 is Received?

Yashasvi Raj Pant
Yashasvi Raj Pant|December 19, 2016 12:36 PM
In part one of this 2-part series, How the Call to 911 is Made, the infrastructure behind how medical alert system calls are initiated was explored.

The two models were compared from a front-end perspective, user experience aspects such as services offered and monthly costs were examined. The benefits of an Internet of Things (IoT) Medical Alert Solution - simultaneously connecting the user directly to 911, while notifying the contact list and the Private Monitoring model- using a dispatcher as an intermediary to connect to 911, were reviewed.
Part two, examines what occurs on the response side of the equation. For both medical alert system models, an outline of the mechanisms involved in getting the call and then relaying the relevant information to all parties is assessed.

When evaluating the merits of a medical alert system the top item on any checklist needs to be how the delivery of emergency services is affected. The entire point of engaging such a system is to have help there when needed.

First, let's follow the sequence of events in both medical alert system models:
Private Monitoring IoT Medical Alert Solution
  • Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) button is pressed / fall is detected
  • Landline or mobile call is placed to call center.
  • User is connected via the PERS through a voice call and can speak to dispatcher who can ask them about their situation and determine if emergency services are required.
  • 911 is called by the dispatcher.
  • Caller information is brought up on the screen and relayed verbally to 911 operators.
  • Using a call list they can contact friends and family and alert them to the incident.

  • Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) button is pressed / fall is detected
  • Internet based alert is sent out.
  • All contacts on the users list are immediately notified of the incident and where it took place. They can connect with one another and speak with the user via the PERS and assess if emergency services are required.
  • The system may simultaneously provide 911 operating centers with relevant details specific to the user dispatched electronically.

In a situation where time is of the essence, IoT Medical Alert Solution based monitoring, with its immediate execution of actions, wins the race. Call center based Private Monitoring has more steps to perform and subsequently, takes more time. It's not until step 4 that the actual 911 call is made. However, for the user who opts to have their alarm go out to the contact list instead of subscribing to an optional monitoring transfer service, the time between pressing the alarm and getting a call made to 911 could be the same or longer. Which begs the question, what happens when your contact list is slow to check their texts or not available at all?

The "IF... THEN's" of IoT Medical Alert Solutions
Hopefully, users who opt for the contact list solution have reliable friends and family and weigh this as a key consideration when choosing their plan. Fortunately, the systems are set up to respond to various conditional situations. Here are a few examples of hypothetical "If's" and their corresponding "Then's".
If: No contacts respond to the alert text,
Then: the text resends until at least one person in the list acknowledges.
If: The power goes out,
Then: the contacts are immediately informed via text.
If: The Internet is down,
Then: the contacts are immediately informed via text.

The 411 on 911
So how does it work when 911 receives an emergency call? We know that when the Private Monitoring dispatcher places the call, they are verbally relaying the information from both the screen and from their exchange with the user. How does it work in the IoT Medical Alert model?
Well, this explanation is chock full of technical jargon, so feel free to let your eyes glaze over if needed, but here it is: The signal is sent to a hub or transfer station, which determines the appropriate Public-Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for the call to be connected to. The user is then connected to the appropriate 911 operators using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). At the same time, the users relevant information gets dispatched electronically to 911. This all happens behind the scenes and so quickly it cannot be counted as multiple steps.

How does 911 prioritize calls?
What differences are there, if any, in how calls are handled by 911 when received from Private Monitoring personnel or via IoT Medical Alert based monitoring? Do calls from a Private Monitoring station get higher priority?
For clarity on this question, we can take a look at an industry that has been initiated into both models. Home security. Over the past decade more and more people have opted into Monitor-it-Yourself (MIY). This is a security system installed by a homeowner or security dealer that is not tied to a central monitoring station but instead the homeowner receives alerts from the security system. In this area it does not matter to law enforcement who calls to report a crime in progress and the same is true for medical alert calls.
The limitations of the Private Monitoring model are evident; and the advantages are not. As advancements continue to be made in the IoT Medical Alert based approach, and companies such as Safety LABS with platform based offerings such as the Anchor, continue to expand their offerings beyond Medical Alert and Wandering Protection, those seeking the peace of mind of knowing that help is available in an emergency, now have more options at their disposal; both in terms of service and price points

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IoT Medical Alert vs Private Monitoring: - Part 2 of 2 - How the Call to 911 is Received?