The Design of a System for Online Psychological Care: Balancing Privacy and Accountability in Sensitive Online Healthcare Environments

Jonas Sjöström
Pär Ågerfalk
Alan R. Hevner


The design of sensitive online healthcare systems must balance the requirements of privacy and accountability for the good of individuals, organizations, and society. Via a design science research approach, we build and evaluate a sophisticated software system for the online provision of psychosocial healthcare to distributed and vulnerable populations. Multi-disciplinary research capabilities are embedded within the system to investigate the effectiveness of online treatment protocols. Throughout the development cycles of the system, we build an emergent design theory of scrutiny that applies a multi-layer protocol to support governance of privacy and accountability in sensitive online applications. The design goal is to balance stakeholder privacy protections with the need to provide for accountable interventions in critical and well-defined care situations. The research implications for the development and governance of online applications in numerous privacy-sensitive application areas are explored.