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How does a human approach to safety change both lives and an industry?

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PHI Health


For decades, the air medical industry seemed to accept a high incident and accident rate as par for the course—a necessary evil when helicopters are the daily mode of transportation as first responders rush to save lives. With over 80 bases across the country, PHI Health is the established leader with many industry firsts. They believed that being the best in an industry where lives were being lost was not good enough. So, they wanted to take the lead and forever change how safety was approached and delivered, not just for them, but for the industry. They believed that zero accidents were achievable, and asked the question, if not zero, which person are we willing to lose?

The Human Approach

PHI worked with Deutser to take a hard look at industry standards and best practices. A big revelation was that the FAA’s 4-pillar Safety Management System (SMS) model was missing one critical piece—the human factor. And so, the Fifth Pillar: The Human Dimension of Safety, was born. At Deutser, we believe in focusing on the human being and accepting the fallibility of the human state. Technology and systems and processes are important, but they will only take you so far. Our team of social and behavioral scientists, safety professionals and design-thinking experts worked with PHI to develop and improve the mental, social and physiological well-being of individuals and strengthen controls against human factors related hazards. Our work addresses the traditional and non-traditional as we work to engage the whole person.

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The Human Dimension of Safety

By reframing information though an original design and experiential perspective, safety becomes woven into the company, becoming the way employees think, process, and interact. Over the almost two decades of working with PHI, we’ve co-authored the following as part of the Fifth Pillar of their SMS: Values, Peer Support, Behavioral Expectations & Hiring , Life-Saving Behaviors, Life-Saving Thinking, Destination Zero, Fatigue Risk Management, Positively Safety, Psychological Safety, Fear Mitigation, Mindfulness, Winter Holiday Focus, Distraction Awareness, Leadership Development and Employee Health & Well-being.


It’s been 16-17 years that we’ve worked with Deutser. It’s been an evolving relationship. Identifying our culture, building our culture and maintaining that culture has been imperative for us. There are risks involved in what we do. The ability to navigate and mitigate those risks means our culture has to be sound, and one that is resistant to fear and absent of fear. Deutser has helped us navigate that throughout the years, and so we are one of the safest organizations in the industry. That is in no small part to our culture, our branding, and sticking to our values, which Deutser helped us develop, maintain and evolve over the years.

Life-Saving Thinking 

Life-Saving Thinking was conceived, created and launched globally by Deutser in partnership with renowned neuroscientist and author Dr. David Eagleman. The kickoff event brought base and department leaders throughout the organization together to experience an engaging and hands-on introduction, education and one-of-a-kind interactive training. It provided a memorable, innovative and unique lens from which the team could better understand their conscious and subconscious mind, recognize mind traps, and make decisions and complete tasks with their full and complete attention. Over the past 6 years, Life-Saving Thinking has become part of PHI’s core training curriculum within the Fifth Pillar: The Human Dimension of Safety. It empowers people in ways they never imagined, enhancing their ability to be safe at work and at home.

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The Lasting Change

Through measures taken within the Fifth Pillar, perceptions have shifted dramatically about the definition of courage. Now, every voice is heard when it comes to safety—even the new employee on their first day on the job.

PHI has had no serious injuries or deaths in the field in over fifteen years—a new record for the air medical industry. They have received the Vision Zero Aviation Safety award twice and Fear scores are down by 37% across the company. The commitment to safety has paid dividends. It’s the primary driver for retention of employees and financial success, as the company reaped a 272% increase in profitability over a five-year period. And, has driven its reputation as the premier and premium provider for safe air medical transport.

And at Deutser, something we’re most proud of is the fact that PHI does not keep these findings and innovations a secret. Rather, they share them openly with competitors and the industry, so that more people can go home safely at the end of their shift.