A home health agency nurse visits a patient with a telehealth system in her home.

As security customers age or become disabled, monitoring for health conditions can be helpful for them and their families — and a lucrative add-on monitoring service for residential security dealers and systems integrators.

“We have a number of security dealers — fire, burglary kinds of dealers — who work with us, and they have pretty good success rolling it into their existing product line,” declares Andy Schoonover, president of Valued Relationships Inc. (VRI), Dayton, Ohio. “So we offer a number of solutions for them to do it inexpensively concurrent with their existing product line. If you’re selling a security system, you also can sell a medical alert system.”

Dealers selling such systems cut across a variety of industries, many related to health care, notes Kristi Soomer, LifeCall segment manager for LifeCall, a division of VOXCOM Security Systems, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

“We’ve got a very diverse dealer base — it runs the gamut from being a lot of non-profit organizations who work with us such as seniors’ organizations, and then security dealers, and another big segment are pharmacies and home health care stores,” Soomer lists. “We’re pretty popular with independent living consultants.”

Those in the commercial market can provide such services for assisted living and rehabilitation facilities.

Health monitoring includes personal emergency response systems (PERS). These usually consist of a base station connected to a telephone line and wireless pendants worn around the neck or on the belt or wrist, which have a button to contact a monitoring station. Most feature two-way voice communication.

However, health monitoring is not limited to these basics. Some systems include motion detectors and door contact sensors to inform caregivers and family members of the movement of elderly or disabled people within their homes or facilities. They may have temperature sensors to indicate that heating and air conditioning systems are working properly. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors also can be tied in with some health monitoring systems.

Monitoring through cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), sometimes including video, are being added to more systems. Some are affiliated with ambulance companies in their areas, and others emphasize that they have emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or even paramedics or nurses answering calls in their monitoring centers.

Nick Bearb, operations manager/central station manager for Acadian Monitoring Services LLC, Lafayette, La., points out that trained medical personnel can provide helpful information to the customer or ambulance service.

“If somebody is having an actual emergency, and there is someone at the location that can offer some assistance to whoever is having the issue, or if the customer is still alert enough to help themselves, we can get some involvement going prior to an ambulance rolling,” Bearb explains. “An ambulance isn’t always two minutes away. You might be looking at 15 minutes before an ambulance shows up.

“If someone is having a seizure, clear the room — don’t hold them down,” he advises. “Or if somebody is diabetic and their blood sugar is low, give them a glass of orange juice. We’re not taking the place of a doctor over the phone, we’re just basically applying common sense.”

Central station dispatcher Isabel responds to a medical emergency within seconds at American Two-Way’s 10,000-square-foot, UL-listed monitoring center.


Schoonover cautions that health monitoring is significantly different than monitoring for burglary or fire.

“The central station side of things is much more different than your typical security central station,” Schoonover points out. “We get a number of different alarms — medical alarms, medication compliance alarms — a number of other types of alarms that a security dealer doesn’t typically get on a day-to-day basis.

“There are security dealers who do provide medical alert monitoring in their central stations, so it does happen, but there are a number out there that think it is too different from what they do to add onto their product line,” he continues. “This is a better business opportunity for the installation than the central station. Monitoring is just a tough thing to do, and it comes with a significant amount of liability.

“You need 10,000 customers before you do health monitoring yourself,” Schoonover thinks. “Not many security dealers have that. That’s a pretty big number. It’s much more high-touch than a typical security alarm [with which] you don’t hear from a customer that often. We hear from our customers once a month — 30,000 calls once a month from our customers. In addition, you have to do a welcome, which typically you don’t do with a security system.” This can be a two- to three-minute call explaining how the monitoring system works.

Christopher Baskin, CEO of American Two-Way Inc., North Hollywood, Calif., says the difference between security and medical alert two-way monitoring is massive.

“We do see a lot of security monitoring centers wanting to jump into the medical alert monitoring market, and we don’t discourage them from doing so,” Baskin admits. “But we very much feel that alarm dealers or anyone getting in the medical alert field needs to understand the difference between medical and security two-way.” He posts some examples on his Web site, www.americantwoway.com.

This system uses motion sensors to report on the movements of those being monitored.


Becoming a dealer for a home health company is not as easy as buying a product at a distributor. It is more like becoming an authorized dealer and involves a qualification process for many suppliers.

“We are selective in our approach as to who we bring on-board because of the responsibility to do it right,” cautions Mike Bodnar, general manager for SafetyCare Technologies LLC, Reading, Pa. “We do background checks and make sure they clear. We like to think we have an exclusive club of distributors representing us throughout the country.”

Sheree Ford, manager of marketing and channel communications for Philips Lifeline, Framingham, Mass., emphasizes that on the residential side of their business, it takes more than a phone call to become a dealer.

“If we feel we are saturated with providers, we will not be looking to take on any new distributors,” Ford declares. “It depends on where they’re located and the demographics in their area.”

Dealers can choose how much they want their companies involved with the actual monitoring and billing of health services.  In many cases, the strength of the health monitoring market in the dealer’s area will determine the level of involvement.

Some health monitoring companies can provide monitoring, billing and even installation of equipment and share a percentage of the income with dealers. Other companies provide these services for a percentage of the monthly revenue from the dealer. Others, in essence, purchase the account from the dealer.

Some companies rent or sell their health monitoring equipment to dealers at wholesale prices, who then resell it to customers.

Others companies sell the equipment to the customer without the dealer having to buy it and share the revenue from the sale and the recurring monitoring fees with the dealer.

Still other companies buy the equipment back from the dealer after it is sold to the customer and share recurring revenue. Many companies sell only through dealers.

“Our program is set up so we set a variable retail price that they sell the product for, and based on what they sell the product for is how they’re compensated, whether on the hardware side or on the monitoring side,” explains Lee Lanier, vice president of TSI Distribution LLC, Sarasota, Fla. “It can be extremely lucrative.

“What we do is we allow our dealers to establish their own retail price, and then we do all the billing for them, and we pay them back anything over and above the cost of the hardware or monitoring fees. We have a set rate for what they get.

“So we’ve tried to make it as flexible for the dealer as possible, and the RMR can be four or more times what they would make from doing a security system,” Lanier maintains.

With some companies’ systems, the name of the dealer is used exclusively on the equipment and bills sent to the dealer’s accounts so the customer never knows a third party is providing the equipment and monitoring.

Security dealers and systems integrators can become as involved or delegate to a home monitoring specialist company as much of health monitoring as they want. Either way, it is a growing source of additional income for them.

SIDEBAR: With Telemedicine, Acceptance Must Catch up to Technology

Telemedicine or telehealth, which sends the results of users’ blood pressure, blood glucose levels and other tests to the monitoring center, is being offered by more companies. Also included or being offered as an add-on is medication compliance, which ranges from reminder lights on base stations or reminder calls from monitoring center operators, to full-fledged devices that provide doses of medications premeasured by caregivers or family members.

Christopher Baskin, CEO of American Two-Way Inc., North Hollywood, Calif., emphasizes that the market for telemedicine needs to grow.

“There are very few subscribers actually utilizing telehealth,” Baskin concedes. “That technology all exists right now — it’s not a question of the technology. It is time for the insurance companies to catch up to the technology so their customers, their patients, are being reimbursed for telehealth. The end users need this service today.”

Baskin thinks video will be an important adjunct to telehealth so medical professionals will be able to read patients’ vital signs and converse in video and audio with patients remotely.

“Video is not established yet in telehealth — it’s still emerging,” Baskin maintains. “Two-way voice combined with video in the telehealth field will be commonplace in the future.”

SIDEBAR 2: Some Home Health Equipment and Monitoring Providers

Acadian Monitoring Services
Lafayette, La.
(800) 259-3333
Web site: www.acadian.com

Medical monitoring: $5 to $8 wholesale range for medical monitoring per account.
Rental of base station and pendant: These fees vary depending on time commitments agreed upon. 
Purchase of the medical alert system: $175 wholesale, which includes PERS unit and pendant and shipping to the dealer's location. Additional pendants/wristbands can be purchased for $35 wholesale.
Area of coverage: All 50 states.
Marketing material provided for dealer customization.
Telehealth: Wholesale from $89 to $159 depending on the package chosen to medical providers.
Medication compliance: Included in the rental price of the telehealth unit.
Number of customers being monitored for health: Approximately 20,000.
Certification of health monitoring central station: CSAA 5 Diamond-certified and UL listed.
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics answer calls in monitoring center.

American Two-Way Inc.
North Hollywood, Calif.
(800) 821-8200
Web site: www. americantwoway.com

Medical monitoring and rental of base station and pendant: $6 to $7 per month wholesale per user.
Purchase of base station and pendant: $135 wholesale; additional $30 wholesale installation for dealer.
Area of coverage: All 50 states and Canada.
Marketing material provided for dealer customization.
Telemedicine included at no extra charge.
Medication compliance included at no extra charge.
Number of customers being monitored for health: More than 100,000.
Certification: UL listed

EMERgency 24
Chicago, Ill.
(800) 800-3624
Web site: www.emergency24.com

$2 surcharge for PERS
$30 per unit equipment drop-ship
Certification: UL, IQ Certification Board, NBFAA, CSAA and SIA.

LifeCall, a division of VOXCOM
Security Systems
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
(800) 266-4166
Web site: www.lifecall.ca

Rental of base station and pendant and monitoring: $39.95 per month to customer; self-install is free with no activation fee; $65 to customer for dealer to install.
Purchase of base station and pendant: $279 for customer and then customer pays $19.95 per month monitoring.
Area of coverage: Canada
Marketing material provided for dealer customization.
No telemedicine.
Medication compliance included for customer but not through central station.
Number of customers being monitored for health: 4,500.
Certification: Certified by Underwriters Laboratories of Canada

SafetyCare Technologies LLC
Reading, Pa.
(866) 693-7233
Web site: www.safetycare.net

Residential and commercial.
Lease or purchase arrangements vary based on target market and geographical marketplace.
Area of coverage: All 50 states and Canada.
Marketing material provided for dealer customization.
Telemedicine: Can monitor and send alerts for no extra charge.
Medication compliance: Can provide medication reminders at no additional charge.
Number of customers being monitored for health: Proprietary.
Certification: UL listed.
Uses Pennsylvania-certified emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to answer calls in monitoring center.

TSI Distribution LLC
Sarasota, Fla.
(866) 593-4314
Web site: www.quietcare1.com

Dealer sells account in protected territory, is reimbursed cost of equipment, receives recurring revenue.
Uses Security Associates International Inc., Arlington Heights, Ill., for monitoring.
Area of coverage: All 50 states.
Marketing material provided for dealer customization.

Valued Relationships Inc. (VRI)
Dayton, Ohio
(800) 860-4230
Web site: www.monitoringcare.com

Lease or purchase of equipment and medical monitoring are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Area of coverage: All 50 states, Mexico, Canada.
Marketing material provided for dealer customization.
Telemedicine and medication compliance prices are proprietary.
Number of customer being monitored for health: 35,000.
Certification: CSAA 5 Diamond certified.

Editor’s note: More companies than those listed provide this equipment and monitoring, but not all work with the security industry.