William F. Gee, MD, a member of the Urology Times Editorial Council, is in private practice in Lexington, KY.
Surveys are an attempt to capture a snapshot of the present and predict the future. This holds true for the recent Urology Time State of the Specialty survey, a relatively small poll of practicing urologists.
As we read the results of this survey, most of us compare them with our own clinical and business practices, learning habits, and concerns. Here is our profile. How do you fit?
This last point is the single most significant finding of the survey. We continue to be proud of our great profession; however, the survey makes clear that socioeconomic issues remain foremost in our minds. As we head into 2009 with a new president and a new Congress, we all need to stay up to date on legislative and socioeconomic developments (reading AUA's monthly Health Policy Brief is one way to do so) and support our urology political action committee, UROPAC.
It is important to note that the interpretation of a poll or survey depends on the methodology used. A survey polls a small sample of a population, which is then extrapolated to represent the entire population within a confidence interval.
An ideal survey is a random sample of the entire population from which information is desired. The population of practicing urologists in the United States is estimated at about 9,500; thus, a telephone survey of a random sample of about 600 urologists (if phone numbers were available for all 9,500) would yield a confidence interval of about 4%.
Most polls, as the present Urology Times survey is, are surveys of convenience. The present survey was sent to urologists who were "convenient"; in this case, 3,019 e-mail addresses of urologists on file at Urology Times. Although this means that a large number of urologists were not given the opportunity to respond, the results from the 133 who did respond still provide statistical validity, but with a wider confidence interval of ±8.3%.