BACKGROUND: We developed a questionnaire to examine the influence of physician and patient variables on the quality of the physician-patient relationship. METHODS: More than 300 family medicine patients completed self-report measures of the physician-patient relationship and variables likely to influence it. RESULTS: The quality of relationship was related to continuity of physician care (having a primary physician, duration of that relationship, and frequency of visits) and to patient dispositional variables (neuroticism, positive and negative affectivity) but not to demographic variables. The regression model included having a primary physician, duration of relationship with that physician, and positive affectivity. Relationship quality was, in turn, associated with outcomes (adherence to care, treatment response, satisfaction with care, and commitment to physician). CONCLUSIONS: The quality of physician-patient relationship is influenced by physician continuity and patient dispositional variables. Better understanding of these may contribute to the therapeutic potential of this important relationship.