Urgent Care or Family Doctor?

On a recent afternoon at the Regional Health Urgent Care Center on LaCrosse Street, the mood was decidedly non-urgent. Visitors sat calmly in the sun-filled waiting room, sipping coffee, flipping through magazines and watching TV while they waited for family members to finish their medical visit. The scene looked like any other doctor’s office waiting room in the Black Hills.

The urgent care concept has created a no-hassle option for area families. You don’t need to make an appointment or take time off work. The provider can suture a cut on your hand, prescribe medicine for your child’s cough or take an X-ray to make sure your son’s arm is not broken.

In fact, some parents have come to believe that urgent care can completely replace the traditional family doctor. That’s not a good idea, said Dr. Alexia Gillen, Physician and Medical Director at Regional Urgent Care.

She’s been on both sides of the family medical care equation, first as a primary care provider and for the last six years in urgent care.

“Everybody should have a primary care provider, even if you only see them once a year,” Dr. Gillen said.

Urgent care is great for patients who are injured or ill, but unable to see their regular doctor. Care can be offered quickly and conveniently for patients of all ages.

Increasingly, primary care providers have full schedules in their clinics, and it’s hard to make last-minute appointments. And busy working families can’t always take time off in the middle of the day.

“Life happens after-hours,” said Jessica Daigle, Manager of Regional Health Urgent Care.

However, your primary care doctor knows you, and knows your health history. They see you’ve gotten thinner in the face since your last visit. They see your child’s frequent earaches might require a visit to an ear-nose-throat specialist. Urgent care treats your symptoms and illnesses acutely, but family medicine providers help you prevent symptoms and treat your chronic illnesses.

And for a lot of patients and families, the primary care provider, family medicine physician or pediatrician is a familiar, trusted face. That can be especially important for young children, for whom a doctor visit is a scary thing.

Words by Dan Daly, Communications Specialist at Regional Hospital


Good for What Ails You

Although urgent care is not intended to replace primary care, some types of injury or illness can be treated at an Urgent Care center rather than a hospital emergency room. These lists are
a good guide on where to go.

Primary Care
  • Wellness/preventive exams
  • Well-child checks
  • Routine physicals and checkups
  • Immunizations
  • Diagnostic screenings
  • Diagnosis and management of chronic medical conditions
  • Geriatric care
  • Referrals to specialists
Urgent Care
  • Minor orthopedic injuries/symptoms – sprains and fractures 
  • Cuts/lacerations
  • Upper respiratory symptoms/cough/cold
  • Fever
  • Urinary infections
  • Ear pain/infections
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Sore throat
  • Mild abdominal pain or symptoms
  • Flu symptoms
  • Sports physicals
Emergency Room
  • Chest pain particularly radiating pain into the arms or associated with shortness of breath or sweating – recommend calling 911
  • Sudden changes in mental status
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe pain
  • Severe bleeding or shock symptoms
  • Weakness in an extremity 
  • Slurring of speech
  • Seizures
  • Life- or limb-threating injuries