Patients with cancer often prefer to avoid time in the hospital; however, data are lacking on the prevalence and predictors of potentially avoidable readmissions (PARs) among those with advanced cancer. For 1 year after enrollment, we reviewed patients’ health records to determine the primary reason for every hospital readmission and we classified readmissions as PARs using adapted Graham’s criteria. We examined predictors of PARs using nonlinear mixed-effects models with binomial distribution.

We enrolled 200 (86.2%) of 232 patients who were approached. For these 200 patients, we reviewed 277 total hospital readmissions and identified 108 (39.0%) of these as PARs. The most common reasons for PARs were premature discharge from a prior hospitalization (30.6%) and failure of timely follow-up (28.7%). PAR hospitalizations were more likely than non-PAR hospitalizations to experience symptoms as the primary reason for admission (28.7% v 13.0%; P = .001). We found that married patients were less likely to experience PARs (odds ratio, 0.30; 95% CI, 0.15 to 0.57; P < .001) and that those with a higher physical symptom burden were more likely to experience PARs (odds ratio, 1.03; 95% CI, 1.01 to 1.05; P = .012).

These findings underscore the need to assess and address the symptom burden of hospitalized patients with advanced cancer in this highly symptomatic population.