"We believe that the public has a right to information irrespective of the entity that conducts the surveys."
They added that public services such as public health and education, restaurant inspections and school performance are transparent. "Hospitals should be held to the same standard. Their performance should no longer be shielded from the public."
In addition, the groups wrote, the Joint Commission, "and any accrediting body of healthcare facilities should be made subject to the federal Freedom of Information At as a condition of their authority" to perform accreditation surveys and complaint investigations.
A spokeswoman for the Joint Commission said she was unable respond to request for comment.
A second letter, signed by some of the same patient advocacy groups including McGiffert of the Consumers Union Safe Patient Project and Lori Nerbonne, of New Hampshire Patient Voices, asks Joint Commission president Mark Chassin to dramatically improve the complaint process that provokes the agency's accreditation inspections.
They told Chassin they are concerned that the complaint process "does not rise to the standard that the commission sets for hospitals in handling adverse events in their facilities: namely that they are patient-centered and transparent."
Patient advocacy groups and patients harmed have "shared stories (that) reflect a common theme: delayed complaint responses and investigations, the need for transparency and improved communication, and no clear way to offer rebuttal to what may very well be incomplete information provided by the offending hospital or facility during the complaint investigation."