Virtual physician visits and telehealth are becoming an even more crucial aspect of health care, according to results of the 2017 Most Wired Survey. The annual report, published by sister publication Hospitals & Health Networks (H&HN), measures the level of information technology (IT) adoption in U.S. hospitals and health systems. It also serves as a benchmark for strategic IT plans and, according to this year’s report, more and more hospitals are using remote communication tools as part of their care strategies.

More than half of Most Wired Survey respondents offer telehealth services and 40 percent offer virtual physician visits. In 2016, only 34 percent offered virtual physician visits. Many of the services are offered within a care setting, such as a doctor in a rural hospital seeking consultation from a specialist physician in an academic medical center located hours away. The top three hospital-to-hospital telehealth services offered by Most Wired hospitals are: consultations and office visits (57 percent); stroke care (52 percent); psychiatric examination/psychotherapy (47 percent).

Virtual physician visits from a patient’s home also are becoming more common among health care systems. The top three telehealth services offered by Most Wired hospitals to patients while at home include: consultation and office visits (30 percent); pharmacologic management (12 percent); and psychiatric examination/psychotherapy (9 percent).

Emerson Hospital in Concord Mass., is in the second half of a two-year telemedicine pilot program offered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Several of the hospital’s primary care physician practices participate in the program to cover a number of services, such as check-ins to monitor recovery from concussions, monitoring after a patient procedure or hospitalization, and behavioral health care.

“It has been very popular, particularly with our pediatric patients who have behavioral health needs,” Chief Information Officer Renee Fosberg told H&HN.