Exploring human values in the design of a web-based QoL-Instrument for people with mental health problems: A value sensitive design approach

I.J.H. Maathuis*, M.G.H. Niezen-van der Zwet, D. Buitenweg, I.L. Bongers, Ch. van Nieuwenhuizen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Quality of life (QoL) is an important outcome measure in mental health care. Currently, QoL is mainly measured with paper and pencil questionnaires. To contribute to the evaluation of treatment, and to enhance substantiated policy decisions in the allocation of resources, a web-based, personalized, patient-friendly and easy to administer QoL instrument has been developed: the QoL-ME. While human values play a significant role in shaping future use practices of technologies, it is important to anticipate on them during the design of the QoL-instrument. The value sensitive design (VSD) approach offers a theory and method for addressing these values in a systematic and principled manner in the design of technologies. While the VSD approach has been applied in the field of somatic care, we extended the VSD approach to the field of mental healthcare with the aim to enable developers of the QoL-instrument to reflect on important human values and anticipate potential value conflicts in its design. We therefore explored how VSD can be used by investigating the human values that are relevant for the design of the QoL-ME. Our exploration reveals that the values autonomy, efficiency, empowerment, universal usability, privacy, redifinition of roles, (redistribution) of responsibilites, reliability, solidarity, surveillance and trust are at stake for the future users of the technology. However, we argue that theoretical reflections on the potential ethical impact of a technology in the design phase can only go so far. To be able to comprehensively evaluate the usability the VSD approach, a supplementary study of the use practices of the technology is needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-898
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • CARE
  • Mental healthcare
  • Quality of life
  • Value sensitive design
  • mHealth


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