Prior Frequent Emergency Department Use as a Predictor of Emergency Department Visits after a New Cancer Diagnosis

Arthur S. Hong, Danh Q. Nguyen, Simon Craddock Lee, D. Mark Courtney, John W. Sweetenham, Navid Sadeghi, John V Cox, Hannah Fullington, Ethan A Halm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


PURPOSE To determine whether emergency department (ED) visit history prior to cancer diagnosis is associated with ED visit volume after cancer diagnosis. METHODS This was a retrospective cohort study of adults ($ 18 years) with an incident cancer diagnosis (excluding nonmelanoma skin cancers or leukemia) at an academic medical center between 2008 and 2018 and a safety-net hospital between 2012 and 2016. Our primary outcome was the number of ED visits in the first 6 months after cancer diagnosis, modeled using a multivariable negative binomial regression accounting for ED visit history in the 6-12 months preceding cancer diagnosis, electronic health record proxy social determinants of health, and clinical cancer-related characteristics. RESULTS Among 35,090 patients with cancer (49% female and 50% non-White), 57% had $ 1 ED visit in the 6 months immediately following cancer diagnosis and 20% had $ 1 ED visit in the 6-12 months prior to cancer diagnosis. The strongest predictor of postdiagnosis ED visits was frequent ($ 4) prediagnosis ED visits (adjusted incidence rate ratio [aIRR]: 3.68; 95% CI, 3.36 to 4.02). Other covariates associated with greater postdiagnosis ED use included having 1-3 prediagnosis ED visits (aIRR: 1.32; 95% CI, 1.28 to 1.36), Hispanic (aIRR: 1.12; 95% CI, 1.07 to 1.17) and Black (aIRR: 1.21; 95% CI, 1.17 to 1.25) race, homelessness (aIRR: 1.95; 95% CI, 1.73 to 2.20), advanced-stage cancer (aIRR: 1.30; 95% CI, 1.26 to 1.35), and treatment regimens including chemotherapy (aIRR: 1.44; 95% CI, 1.40 to 1.48). CONCLUSION The strongest independent predictor for ED use after a new cancer diagnosis was frequent ED visits before cancer diagnosis. Efforts to reduce potentially avoidable ED visits among patients with cancer should consider educational initiatives that target heavy prior ED users and offer them alternative ways to seek urgent medical care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1738-E1752
JournalJCO Oncology Practice
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Health Policy
  • Oncology(nursing)


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