The objectives of this study were to develop a computerized method to screen for potentially avoidable hospital readmissions using routinely collected data and a prediction model to adjust rates for case mix. We studied hospital information system data of a random sample of 3,474 inpatients discharged alive in 1997 from a university hospital and medical records of those (1,115) readmitted within 1 year. The gold standard was set on the basis of the hospital data and medical records: all readmissions were classified as foreseen readmissions, unforeseen readmissions for a new affection, or unforeseen readmissions for a previously known affection. The latter category was submitted to a systematic medical record review to identify the main cause of readmission. Potentially avoidable readmissions were defined as a subgroup of unforeseen readmissions for a previously known affection occurring within an appropriate interval, set to maximize the chance of detecting avoidable readmissions. The computerized screening algorithm was strictly based on routine statistics: diagnosis and procedures coding and admission mode. The prediction was based on a Poisson regression model. There were 454 (13.1%) unforeseen readmissions for a previously known affection within 1 year. Fifty-nine readmissions (1.7%) were judged avoidable, most of them occurring within 1 month, which was the interval used to define potentially avoidable readmissions (n = 174, 5.0%). The intra-sample sensitivity and specificity of the screening algorithm both reached approximately 96%. Higher risk for potentially avoidable readmission was associated with previous hospitalizations, high comorbidity index, and long length of stay; lower risk was associated with surgery and delivery. The model offers satisfactory predictive performance and a good medical plausibility. The proposed measure could be used as an indicator of inpatient care outcome. However, the instrument should be validated using other sets of data from various hospitals.