The Institute of Medicine says patient input is critical as health providers try to figure out the right diagnosis. Here are tips from the IOM's report Tuesday, adapted from the National Patient Safety Foundation and the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine:
-Don't hesitate to ask questions: What could be causing my problem? What else could it be? When will I get test results? What if my symptoms worsen?
-Be clear and complete in describing your illness. Bring notes so you recall when symptoms began, what makes them better or worse, or if they seem related to medications, meals or certain times of day.
-Know your family medical history; relatives may have had similar symptoms.
-Keep records of test results, referrals, hospital admissions.
-If the doctor doesn't call promptly with test results, call to ask for them.
-Bring an up-to-date list of all medications to each doctor visit. Know the doses, what each is for, and learn what side effects and interactions may occur.
-Learn about your illness, tests or procedures through reliable online sources or the library.