To compare patient and doctor views of the consultation process, 46 consultations were videotaped in four primary health care centres. Twelve general practitioners and 46 patients participated. Later, the patients and the doctors (on different occasions) spontaneously commented on the recorded consultations. Qualitative methods were used for the analysis. The patients seemed to have a perspective oriented towards relationships, while the doctors were more oriented towards medical tasks. There was an association of power between the parties that implies a relationship of mutual dependency. The doctors depended on the patients to obtain the information they needed about the symptoms to be able to fulfil their professional task. The patients depended on the doctor to get their important needs satisfied; everything from a particular medicine to being treated as a human being. The major differences in the comments by the patients and the doctors reflected their different roles and the asymmetry in the relationship.