It was around 20 years ago that telemedicine became realistic and practical in terms of cost and image quality. Satellite could not be a standard due to high cost, and Internet had failed to satisfy doctors because of blurred and sluggish images with limited bandwidth at its early stage. When big broadband Internet became available between Japan and Korea in 2002, transmission of uncompressed endoscopy live images came true as the very first success story in the world. This newly developed system eliminated the need of costly special equipment, and it was rapidly accepted across Asia and beyond.
However, there were some limitations. One is that availability of big enough Internet was limited to top universities or research centers in each country, and regional hospitals where there were big needs for updated education could not join the activities. Another is that engineering support of experts was a must to run the system properly. We had thought that it would take some more time to prevail the benefit of telemedicine thoroughly to every corner of the society.
Covid-19 pandemic unexpectedly revolutionized online communication, and it affected to variety of lifestyle, medical societies including endoscopy not being the exception. In parallel with timely development of communication technologies, remote medical education has become possible using regular commercial Internet so that ordinary people can join endoscopy programs from homes or offices, controlling systems by themselves. As a result, the number of participants to virtual meetings was reported to have increased, more people joining the meetings personally, not by groups. Live demonstration of endoscopy also became technically much easier, which can be organized only with remote assistance.
Technological development should be endless and we hope to have even brighter future with full potential of telemedicine both for patients and healthcare providers.