April 17, 2019
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Leadership Pain Management (Anesthesiology)
Name:Ruben Kalra, M.D.
(This profile was originally published in the March/April issue of the ACCMA Bulletin.)
Ruben Kalra, M.D., is an Interventional Pain Specialist who started his own group practice in the Bay Area, specializing in the treatment of chronic pain and general pain management. Recently Dr. Kalra stepped into a new field: the health care technology industry. Through their work with chronic pain and opioid management, Dr. Kalra and his partners discovered the need for a more in-depth tool to help physicians better understand and treat pain. Drawing on their many years of experience in anesthesiology and pain management, they started a new venture—a company called Wellbrain that serves as a digital chronic pain management platform, allowing physicians to track the psychosocial indicators of chronic pain.
Wellbrain offers physicians a menu of tests and risk assessment tools to evaluate patients for anxiety, depression, substance use disorder, and other factors that may contribute to and exacerbate chronic pain. Dr. Kalra noted that in patients experiencing depression, anxiety, and chronic pain, the research suggests that the pain component can be best managed after first treating their anxiety and depression. In line with Pain Medicine Consultants’ pain management practices, Wellbrain seeks to maximize the use of non-pharmacological modalities and allow physicians to give patients a mindful meditation program to treat anxiety, depression, and other conditions that may contribute to chronic pain.
Dr. Kalra also noted how the changing regulatory environment for physicians treating chronic pain has been a part of Wellbrain’s services for physicians. This change is also impacting who their primary customers are. He said, “We’re getting more and more primary care doctors who want to use the platform because it serves to help them stay in compliance with the Medical Board of California guidelines that mandate patients receive psychological testing if they’re being prescribed opiates.” Wellbrain is also currently being used in a trial program at Kaiser Hospitals for patients undergoing knee surgery, and Dr. Kalra said other hospitals have expressed interest in using the platform. The whole team is looking forward to seeing the results of Wellbrain’s use in hospital settings.
Dr. Kalra founded his small group practice, Pain Medicine Consultants, with two other physicians—William Longton, M.D., and Richard Shinaman, M.D.,—who are also members of the California Medical Association and the Alameda Contra Costa Medical Association. Each partner has an extensive background in anesthesiology and pain management.
Dr. Kalra completed his residency in anesthesiology, followed by a pain management fellowship at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He maintains dual board certification in anesthesiology and pain management. From 2010 through 2015, Dr. Kalra led the pain management team at John Muir Health, coordinating efforts at both the Walnut Creek and Concord campuses. Pain Medicine Consultants aims to provide pain management services and treatments to patients experiencing the full spectrum of pain, all while limiting the use of opioids. Their practice treats everything from short-term acute pain to long-term chronic pain, providing over 30,000 patient consultations and treatments per year to patients from the entire Bay Area.
As a founder of Pain Medicine Consultants, Dr. Kalra understands the pressures that solo and small group practice physicians currently face, stating, “Doctors are extraordinarily busy and we created a platform that take that into consideration and really try to minimize clinician time spent using the platform.” Running a company and a medical practice has been no easy feat for Dr. Kalra and his partners. “It’s been extraordinarily challenging to operate a practice, take care of patients, and run a business as well, but we’ve been lucky to have a really good team helping us out on the business side.” As communities come together to address the opioid epidemic, physicians such as the team at Pain Medicine Consultants are offering innovative solutions to help manage pain safely and more effectively.