Metro Detroit family warns medical alert devices may not work as promised

Philips Lifeline issues voluntary recall

BERKLEY, Mich. (WXYZ) - One local family has a warning for you this holiday season:  if you’re hoping to keep aging parents safe with in-home medical alert devices, you’ll want to make sure they are working properly.

The Kramer family thought they had everything covered in case their 91-year-old mother fell… until they found out the fall detection they’ve been paying for with their medical alert device doesn’t work!!

“We felt that was a great extra added safety, kind of like a reserve parachute,” said Dan Kramer.

Kramer just wanted to keep his mother-in-law, Jean, safe.  He says the 91-year-old is still fiercely independent, but she has some mobility issues.  So Kramer and his wife purchased a Philips Lifeline AutoAlert system.

“This is the fall detection apparatus.  It’s intended to be worn around the neck, and then when you fall, it’s supposed to send to a receiver unit a signal that you have fallen,” said Kramer.

He was stunned when Philips recently sent Jean a letter that said if she falls, the Lifeline help button will not automatically detect the fall.  That means it won’t send a signal to alert emergency crews.

“This company actually admitted it doesn’t work,” said Kramer.

The medical alert push button on the wrist strap did still work.  But the fall detection is supposed to trigger help if you fall and can’t push that button on your own.

So the Kramer’s ordered a new fall detection device from a different company, and this time they decided to test it out.

“No matter what we did, we couldn’t get the fall sensing pendant to alert the system that there was a fall,” said Kramer.  “We became very discouraged, very completely.”

The Kramer’s sent that system back, but they still want answers.

“Here as a caregiver, you want to provide as much protection and care for an elderly person or somebody whose got limited mobility.  You want to provide that protection for them, and these are two out of two that didn’t work,” said Kramer.

Here is a statement from Philips Lifeline:

In November 2017, Philips Lifeline became aware that a limited number of the company's AutoAlert Help Button devices shipped after August 1, 2017 had been affected by a production issue that prevented the units' AutoAlert automatic fall detection function from sending an automatic signal to the Philips Lifeline Emergency Response Center in the event of a fall. The pendants continue to work as a basic help button.  With the press of the button on the pendant, the subscriber will be connected to the Philips Lifeline Emergency Response Center 24/7, 365 days a year.

Once the issue was identified, we immediately initiated our containment and corrective action procedures to notify and remedy impacted service as promptly as possible.  As part of this process, subscriber and reseller notification began within two business days of issue identification. Subscriber reimbursement was implemented in December and reseller reimbursement is in progress.

We have sent automated recorded calls to potentially affected subscribers and we have also followed up with formal notification letters as part of the process. This situation impacts approximately 4% of subscribers on service in North America. Philips Lifeline has also initiated a voluntary recall of the affected AutoAlert Help Button devices, and we have notified the appropriate regulatory agencies.

The safety and well-being of Lifeline subscribers is our top priority, and we are taking all possible steps to address this matter quickly. Philips Lifeline subscribers who have any questions or concerns may call our 24/7 Customer Service line at:  888-767-5586.

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