There is a standard set of questions for ailments that I use to drag more information out of a patient, until I can tailor the questions more specifically. What were you doing when the chest pain started? How long has it been going on? Is it constant or intermittent? It is sharp or burning or pressure? Stuff like that.
Lots of patients experience their complaint for hours/days/weeks/years. One question I find particularly useful for them is "what changed about your complaint today to make you come in right now?" Usually it's because they're coming in at 0300 on a Tuesday for finger pain x8 months and just need a work note, but sometimes that question evokes a surprisingly legit response.
The best I've ever heard:
Me: So you've been having this diarrhea for almost a week now, what changed about today to make you come to the ER?
Leaky Patient: Well, I accidentally shit myself today. I figured it was an okay reason to be seen.