BACKGROUND: A deepened understanding of patients' perspectives is essential in order to improve medical communication. By changing focus from patient satisfaction to patient experiences, more immediate, personal and affective responses may be captured. OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to develop a new consultation-specific questionnaire on patient experiences. METHODS: The questionnaire was developed in Norwegian primary care in three main phases. Phase 1: focus groups with patients in order to identify important aspects of patients' experiences, and their words and language when describing such experiences. Phase 2: a questionnaire survey with 110 items including 660 patients. Extensive testing resulted in a reduction to 25 items on six dimensions. Phase 3: a questionnaire survey with 25 items including 1092 patients. Psychometric analyses and feedback from patients and physicians involved dimensionality and tests of validity and reliability. RESULTS: A final questionnaire was produced with 18 items on five dimensions: communication; emotions; short-term outcome; barriers; and relations with the auxiliary staff. The validity and reliability estimates were highly satisfactory. Three scales were skewed while two were more equally distributed. Forty-eight per cent of the patients described less than optimal communication experiences; some communication barriers were detected in 70% of the visits and less helpful experiences with the staff were reported in 55% of the visits. Twenty-four per cent of patients left with no positive feelings, and 48% scored low on the outcome scale (knowledge, perceived result). CONCLUSIONS: The patient experience questionnaire (PEQ) emphasizes what patients value the most, i.e. interaction, emotions and outcome, and may represent a valuable tool for doctors who want feedback from their patients on the function of their doctor-patient relationships.