John Snow, the English physician whose work arguably helped to halt an 1854 London cholera epidemic, is considered one of the founders of modern epidemiology. Drawing on his knowledge of statistics, Snow decided to plot the homes of the cholera victims as dots on a street map, revealing a cluster of deaths around a single water pump located on Broad Street (now Broadwick Street)—a pump that was later discovered to be extremely close to a cesspool. Snow’s work led to the removal of the pump’s handle, rendering it impossible to draw water; this action either ended or contributed to ending the cholera outbreak. The importance of analytics in epidemiology makes a strong case that Snow can also be viewed as one of the founders of clinical visualization.
At a recent analytics conference, Barbara-Jo Achuff, MD, a visionary clinician from Texas Children’s Hospital, illustrated the importance of epidemiology and analytics in clinical care, drawing a direct link to Snow’s work in London more than 150 years ago.