Marc Matthews, M.D., had a patient who couldn't shake a nasty infection and kept turning up at the hospital.Matthews and his colleagues couldn't put a finger on why the treatments weren't working.

It wasn't until Matthews, who is medical director of Mayo Family Clinic Kasson (Minn.), visited the patient at home that he finally understood the problem. The house was cluttered, healthy foods were scarce and transportation was an issue.

Mayo has been searching for ways to transform care in Kasson, which is about 15 miles outside of Rochester. Clinicians found that patients live busy lives, transportation is challenging and visiting the clinic can be an inconvenience. So they looked for a way to get the doctor to the patient.

What they came up with was an "exam room in a backpack," holding all the tools needed for a regular visit — a stethoscope, a blood pressure reader, and an iPad to access electronic health records.

The experiment is just a year old, and anecdotally, Matthews says, it seems to be working. The patient with the nagging infection has been back to the hospital only once since the program began.

Nurse practitioners, visiting seniors for follow-up appointments as part of a care transition program, also use the bags.