Update: WatchOS3 has a quick 911 system that also notifies your emergency contacts.
My wife has some iliotibial band problems along with a bit of scoliosis and inflamed joints. Usually exercise and some pain medicine allow her to function, but she had three somewhat serious falls this past summer and has had more difficulty getting about. When I'm out, I worry that she might fall again and be unable to get up.
We considered medical alert systems, but they all carry a monthly cost and are probably over kill for our need. I happened to stumble upon an IOS app that detects falls and that immediately made me think of using an Apple Watch instead of a medical alert device. The IOS app actually wouldn't detect a fall - it is meant for falls from a ladder and such - but she could simply tell the watch to call me or the police or a neighbor. That's actually more flexible than a medical alert device and there's no monthly fee except for phone service that we already have.
It's also quite possible that a future IOS app could detect a minor fall followed by being motionless or agitated and could send an automatic alert to some designated group. That would be perfect.
I spoke to the people who make the fall detection app and they had this to say:
As you know, the Apple Watch is a great wearable but does have some limitations currently. Fall Safety, for example, can use the Apple Watch as a remote, but Apple hasn’t provided us a way to run the app in the background yet, so we rely on the iPhone for fall detection. I think you will find the same issue for heart rate monitoring since 3rd party (non Apple made) apps aren’t capable of running in the background on the Apple Watch in the current version of the watch hardware and software.
So, right now there is room for improvement (unless Apple made the app itself), but I think the ability to call out without having the phone in hand is good enough for us right now.