Walgreens Ready Response offers three packages: the Vi Home Based Unit, the CEL Home Based Unit and Ready Response On the Go, which features the Numera Libris mobile system.
We purchased and tested the CEL Home Based Unit, which is the same as the in-home landline system but comes with a cellular antenna adapter that plugs into the unit. While the cellular antenna looks dated, we appreciate the flexibility that it provides in allowing you to get the antenna into the best possible position.
Cost Comparison: C+
Walgreens has priced its packages to be competitive, receiving a C+ grade in our cost comparison, but the company's prices are still not competitive enough to make up for other flaws. The only package that was cheaper than average was the $39.99 premium mobile alert package, which was about $3 below the market average at the time of our review. The base and midrange packages were priced right at the $30 and $36 market averages.
Walgreens gives you the option to make bigger up-front payments (annually or quarterly), and this can lower your monthly cost by an average of $5 per month. However, most other services do the same thing, offering similar savings.
Prices fluctuate and change all the time, however. You should always confirm and compare package prices before purchasing a system.
The best feature of the Tunstall system is the pendant range, which averaged 105 feet. As with every pendant we tested, the wireless signal between the pendant and the base unit was 100 percent reliable in a real-world setting; things like beds, fridges, bathtubs and water didn't interfere with the signal. Outside the apartment in which we tested it, the pendant reached 118 feet down the right hall and 91 feet down the left all. For comparison, the average distance for all of the pendants we tested was 89 feet.
The speakerphone received a B grade for quality. It certainly didn't match the overall quality of the Mytrex MXD3G system (used by six services) or the MobileHelp CBS2-01 system (used by five services), but it wasn't as bad as some speakerphones we tested. The biggest issue with its quality is the volume. The clarity was excellent at low and mid volume, but at high volume, the speaker distorted the sound considerably.
The fall-detection feature was less impressive. When it recognizes a fall, the Tunstall pendant plays a quiet melody. We liked this because it made it easy to identify when the sensors recognized a fall and signaled that the pendant was calling for help. However, in our simulations, the pendant recognized only about 33 percent of the falls. The interesting part of this was that it also recognized falls 33 percent of the times we dropped the pendant from both 6 and 12 inches. As a result, it seems this pendant is both overly sensitive (it shouldn't recognize a fall when dropped from 6 inches) and inconsistent.
The call response time was the biggest disappointment. On average, the operator answered in 93.43 seconds. While this is not the slowest response time, it was only the 15th fastest out of 20 services we tested. It was also much slower than the 69.58-second overall average for all services. This time doesn't even come close to the fastest response time of 20.67 seconds, which was put up by GreatCall. When seconds matter in an emergency, the call response time becomes an important consideration.
After several weeks of testing and evaluating the clarity, pacing, communication and demeanor of the operators, we gave the call experience a B- grade for overall quality. Most of the time, the operators were excellent, but we occasionally talked to operators who seemed a little too much like they were reading off a script.
In addition, the operators always assumed we were the name on the account. Though this is a minor gripe, we preferred when they asked us to identify ourselves, as this showed more concern with the overall security of the customer.
Overall, Walgreens Ready Response is average. The Tunstall device has good range, and the speakerphone isn't terrible, but it's not better than the more commonly used in-home cellular systems. The biggest concern is the slow response time and the inconsistent fall detection. While certainly an effective medical alert system, this is not the best option available.
Side note: Walgreens' Ready Response is an excellent example of how the industry of medical alert systems largely works. Walgreens is a huge brand name that sells packages that use the Tunstall medical alert devices, which call the Tunstall Americas monitoring center. In fact, when we had questions about the setup and the fall-detection pendant, Walgreens directed us to Tunstall for answers, telling us that Walgreens simply sells the device.