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Checklist for Getting the Right Diagnosis
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Take an active role in working with your doctor or nurse when you are ill. To help them put all of this information together to find the right diagnosis (health problem), your doctor or nurse will need to:
  1. Ask you questions about your current illness and medical history
  2. Do a physical exam
  3. Order some tests if needed
  4. Come up with a list of possible diagnoses that may be causing you to feel ill and narrow it down
  5. Recommend treatment for your illness
By following this checklist, you become a partner in finding the right diagnosis for you.

1. Tell Your Story Well

Be Clear, Complete, and Accurate when you tell your doctor or nurse about your illness. 


Be Clear

Take some time to think about when your symptoms started, what made your symptoms better or worse, or if your symptoms were related to taking medications, eating a meal, exercising, or a certain time of day.

Be Complete

Try to remember all of the important information about your illness. Write down some notes and bring them with you, a family member may be able to help you with this. 

Be Accurate

Sometimes a nurse or health technician may ask you questions about your illness before you see the doctor. Make sure your doctor hears the same story. 

2. Be A Good Historian

   Remember what treatments you have tried in the past and if they helped 
   Think about how your illness has progressed over time 
   Think about your family’s medical history and if you may be at risk to get the same illness 

3. Be A Good Record Keeper 

   Keep your own records of test results, referrals, and hospital admissions 
   Keep an accurate list of your medications
   Bring your medication list with you when you see your doctor, nurse or pharmacist 

4. Be An Informed Consumer

   Learn about your illness by looking on the Internet ( or visit a local library
   Learn about the tests or procedures you are having done 
   Learn about your medications
  • Know the name of your medication (both generic and brand names) For Example: Tylenol (brand name) and Acetaminophen (generic name)
  • Know what the medication is for
  • Know the amount (dose) you need to take
  • Know the time you need to take it during the day
  • Know the side effects to watch for and report to your doctor
  • Know if the medication interacts with any food or drugs

 5. Take Charge of Managing Your Health

   When meeting with your doctor or nurse, use the Ask Me 3 brochure titled Good Questions for Getting the Right Diagnosis 
   If you have more than one doctor, make sure each doctor knows what the other person is thinking and planning 
   Make sure each doctor knows all of your test results, medications, or other treatments 
   Be informed and involved in decisions about your health 

6. Know Your Test Results

   Make sure both you and your doctor get the results from any tests that are done 
   Don’t assume that no news is good news, call and check on your test results 
   Ask what the test results mean and what needs to be done next 

7. Follow Up

   Ask when you need to make another appointment (follow up) with your doctor or nurse once you start treatment 
   Ask what to expect from the treatment or what it will do for you
   Ask what you need to do if you get new symptoms, or start to feel worse 

8. Make Sure It Is The Right Diagnosis

   Sometimes your diagnosis is the most “likely” thing that is wrong, but it may not be the “right” thing 
   Don’t be afraid to ask “What else could this be?” 
   Encourage your doctor or nurse to think about other possible reasons for your illness 
more Calendar

NPSF Professional Learning Series Webcast: Health Literacy: Improving Patient Understanding

Certified Professional in Patient Safety Review Course Webinar

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