. Carolyn Hartley and Peter Wong work through editorial revisions from publisher, Taylor Trade, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield. Photo by Richie Elkins, Cre8tve Works

(C) Carolyn P Hartley

Really good books are the result of national events, smart people, and a lot of God intervention. The Caregiver’s Toolbox is so much bigger than Peter Wong and me.

My friend, Ed Jones, friend and co-author of more than a dozen HIPAA and electronic health record (EHR) books for the American Medical Association and American Dental Association, had been asked to develop a report for then HHS Secretary Sebelius and Congress on how the country was migrating health information into a digital environment. Ed asked me to co-chair the committee on patient engagement. This was one of my passions because I really believed that consumers and caregivers would benefit the most if health information was readily available to them to make informed decisions.

More than 75 nationally known companies wanted to be involved in our patient engagement committee. Tom Meyers and Robert Tennant, both highly regarded policy advisors, co-chaired this committee with me. Consumers had the potential to make the most significant changes to health care, if only they were first educated on their choices. Consumers, then could make decisions about their own health and the health of loved ones if health care went digital.

I met Peter Wong when he was asked to be an adviser to this patient engagement workgroup.  After multiple conference calls, Peter and I decided to meet in Columbia, SC to develop a strategic plan for our report. Peter sent me an email and signed it, “God bless.”

“God bless?” Who signs an email God bless, I thought? He recommended we meet at a coffee shop 45 minutes away from my home at 7:30 in the morning. Grudgingly, I dragged myself out of bed, drove through commuter traffic, but God whispered to me all along, “Trust me, I’m in this.”

During the next three hours, Peter and I talked about our own pathways as caregivers and how our professional lives, loss of loved ones, and health care professionals had magnified our own frustrations or joys as family caregivers. It was then that we both saw how we could not only successfully help our committee deliver a message to Congress, but also deliver an educational tool to consumers and caregivers. We would create a roadmap caregivers could use to navigate this crazy, always changing world of health care.

Peter leveraged his experiences from working with a Big 4 risk management company, and I brought years’ experiences helping thousands of doctors transition into electronic charts and a 30-year publishing history. We pulled together a powerful book proposal, submitted it to a literary agent. Within three days, the literary agent emailed me back and said, “I want this title.”

In less than a week, he found an amazing editor, Mary Norris, at Globe Pequot Press, a caregiver herself, who said she wanted the book completed in six months. Contract and advance in hand, Peter and I spent the next six months, heads down in research, drafting and exchanging chapters, polishing and hyperlinking content to make the book as interactive and valuable as possible to our readers. Under Mary’s guidance, we wove our own stories between tools to bring the book alive. Sometimes those stories were tearful, but uplifting, knowing we could help others.

We hit a bump when our publisher was acquired by a larger organization and The Caregiver’s Toolbox took a back seat to a massive acquisition of titles. But even so, God remained in the book and brought it back to life in 2015. By the time the book found a home on internet booksellers including Amazon, The Caregiver’s Toolbox had became Amazon’s #1 hot new release for nine consecutive weeks in aging parents and medical home care categories.

Our friends, family, and beloved readers are the reason for The Caregiver’s Toolbox success. Today, we are working with large organizations, caregivers groups, first responders, faith communities, and a few of the rich and famous, caregivers themselves, to educate consumers on choices. We continue to search for quality tools, mobile apps, checklists, prayers and a lot of compassion to help those heroes who care for a family member. You are the reason why healthcare in America has a chance to thrive.





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