How to Choose a Primary Care Doctor

What is the best way to find a primary care doctor? Can I interview a doctor before I “hire” them? Tune into this podcast with Dr. Rand Nashi with Emerson Health Primary Care Bedford and learn how to choose a physician that will help you meet your health goals.
How to Choose a Primary Care Doctor
Featured Speaker:
Rand Nashi, MD
Rand Nashi, MD, is an internal medicine physician with Emerson Health Primary Care in Bedford. 

Learn more about Rand Nashi, MD
How to Choose a Primary Care Doctor

Scott Webb: Choosing a new doctor can be a bit stressful and leave us with more questions than answers. And I'm joined today by Dr. Rand Nashi. She's an internal medicine physician with Emerson Health Primary Care in Bedford. And she's going to help guide us through the process of choosing a new doctor.

This is The Health Works Here podcast from Emerson Health. I'm Scott Webb. Doctor, thanks so much for your time today. I was just sort of joking with you when we think about finding a new physician, a primary care physician or otherwise, you know, should we look online, look at reviews like doctors are a restaurant? I'm sure you have some recommendations. So, where should people start when we're looking for a new physician?

Dr. Rand Nashi: Choosing a primary care doctor is a very important matter and there's quite a few ways to find one. The first option that I discuss and the one that I recommend most highly is to talk to your loved ones, your family, your neighbors, your friends, to see if they have any personal recommendations. People often have a very strong relationship with their doctor that they're proud to share, and that kind of an endorsement can be priceless. 

Another option is to use social media to ask around. So for example, you can make a Facebook status asking for new recommendations. That's how some of my friends found their most recent primary care doctor actually. And then, lastly, a cumbersome way, but a very important way to find a primary care doctor is to look up your insurance policies website to see what providers are covered and do a little bit of online research.

Scott Webb: Yeah. It is nice in this era of being able to look up people online and use social media versus just sort of old school walking in the door. And of course, we all probably need to, you know, look up our respective medical groups and see which doctors are in that group and so on. So, a lot to take in and great to have your expertise today. Wondering, is it a thing where patients either sort of interview prospective doctors, either in person or maybe via Zoom? Is that done and how common is it?

Dr. Rand Nashi: So, absolutely, it is done that people can interview a new physician. It's something that we call a meet and greet. It's basically an encounter at no charge to the patient where either in-person or via telehealth, you get to sit down with your potential new provider and ask them any questions that you like. For example, you can ask them about their philosophy of care, and we can talk more about that, but it is absolutely an option to interview your potential new physician, and we call that a meet and greet.

Scott Webb: I love that, a meet and greet. Awesome. So yeah, let's talk then about some of the questions. What should we prepare beforehand? What types of things should we ask and what are we looking for if we get a chance to do a meet and greet with a prospective doctor?

Dr. Rand Nashi: Everybody has individual concerns when they come to a doctor, so you should really feel free to ask any questions that are relevant to your health. So for example, you can ask the provider if they're comfortable dealing with certain conditions that you struggle with. You may want to know how long they've been in practice or where they've trained. You may also want to ask about certain basic procedures, like a Pap smear, if it's done in the clinic or if they refer out for those procedures.

Scott Webb: Yeah. And when we think about fit, right? We know so much when we're dealing with docs and nurses from our perspective. Of course, doctors and nurses are also patients too. What are we looking for in terms of fit? Like I know in my particular case with my primary care physician, she's just a really good listener. I feel for that, you know, 15 minutes or so, that I have her, that I have her undivided attention and she's really listening to me. But from your perspective, from the doctor's perspective, when we think about fit, what's involved?

Dr. Rand Nashi: So, it's hard to capture into words really when you feel like it's a good fit. There are obvious things like is the physician attentive, which is what you alluded to? Is the physician thoughtful and polite? You want someone who really pays attention to your concerns and explains conditions in simple language. 

Overall though, in my personal experience with my meet and greets, it ends up being more of a gestalt judgment of the quote unquote "vibe" of the encounter. People can tell pretty early on if they're comfortable with you or not, and you really want to find someone that you can trust because you'll obviously be trusting this person with your whole health. So, there are signs that, you know, there's a good fit, like if the physician is a good listener. There are also signs that there might not be a good fit, like a physician who is impolite, detached, or cuts you off while you're talking. Those can all be red flags.

Scott Webb: Yeah, it definitely can be. And I think most of us have had those experiences and we know that there just aren't enough, probably, medical professionals in this country, right? And doctors are busy, and it's just one patient after the other. And I'm sure, you know, as patients or prospective patients, we need to consider that sometimes, you know, one day, one experience may not be indicative of how it is all the time when you go into that office, or maybe it is. So yeah, maybe you can just delve a little deeper into the signs that it's not a good fit. I know you mentioned vibe, and vibe is something very difficult to identify, something very sort of intangible. But maybe you can give us a sense of, "This is just not going to work for me." How would a patient know?

Dr. Rand Nashi: There are many qualities that determine a good office that would meet your needs. So for example, are they responsive when you call them or is it difficult to get ahold of people? When you talk to people on the phone, is the front desk and support staff kind? Do they treat you with respect? Do they have 24/7 providers on-call for emergencies? And do they have a network of specialists in the area? Is it easy to get prescription refills? All those things go into a functioning office and are important to evaluate beforehand.

Scott Webb: Wondering, you know, from your perspective over the last three years and where we are today, did you feel like you weren't seeing people as often because they were trying to avoid all the COVID stuff? And are people coming back now, people glad to see you when they do see you and so on?

Dr. Rand Nashi: It's true. I just started at a relatively new practice in Emerson, so I can't speak to a prolonged period of time. But I can say that for the time period that I have seen patients, they have been to an extent avoiding care during COVID, which is understandable. But they are happy to be back in care. So for example, there are people that haven't had a physical since COVID started and they're happy to be back in getting their preventative care in check. So, I have seen the situation where patients have been avoiding care but are coming back to care and we're very happy to receive them.

Scott Webb: Yeah, I'm sure you are. And I had the experience during COVID of doing a telehealth visit with my doctor. So, it was really nice to see my doctor's face on my phone and speak to her in my kitchen. And then, I have seen her in person and was happy to see her, and she seemed happy to see me. So, I totally hear what you're saying. I want to give you an opportunity here, doctor, at the end to just tell folks what you love about being a primary care physician.

Dr. Rand Nashi: There's really no words for the amount of trust that the patient puts in your hands, and that's what's most rewarding about being a primary care doctor. Because people come to you in their most vulnerable state and they put their faith in you to guide them through their challenges. It's absolutely priceless.

I also enjoy the diversity of cases that I see, because you never know what's going to come through the door, whether it's chest pain or a rash, and it never stops being exciting. And finally, I really do love listening to my patients. My philosophy is that the patient is going to tell you the diagnosis, you just have to listen carefully enough. And I learned so much from my patients. It's a lifelong process that I think I will never stop.

Scott Webb: Yeah, I love that because I'm one of those lifelong learners myself, and so it's one of the reasons I love doing these, is I love learning from the experts about how they do what they do, why they do what they do, and so on. So, this has been really great today, doctor. Thanks so much. You stay well.

Dr. Rand Nashi: Thank you. It's been wonderful talking to you. Stay well as well.

Scott Webb: And to schedule a consult with Dr. Nashi, call Emerson Health Primary Care in Bedford at 339-215-5100. And thanks for listening to Emerson's Health Works Here podcast. I'm Scott Webb. And make sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the Health Works Here Podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify, or wherever podcasts can be heard.