KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Asking a question may be easy enough for you or me, but, in the hospital, it can sometimes be impossible.

"One of the difficulties patients have is speaking when intubated. That means they have a tube in their throat, and they've got a machine breathing for them, so they're unable to talk," said Victoria Niederhauser, the dean of University of Tennessee's College of Nursing.

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Rebecca Koszalinski, a nurse scientist at UT, came up with the idea for an app that would allow patients to tell their nurse or doctor exactly what they need to say without saying a word.

The app is called "Speak for Myself." Patients select the medical phrases they want to say, and the app says it for them.

"That's what we do in nursing. We look for ways we can intervene and come up with solutions and when we can give that back to the patients. That's the best feeling," Koszalinski said.

She's working with several departments at the University of Tennessee, like engineering and nursing, to develop a newer version of the app to help patients who can't use their hands to operate the tablet like what's needed in the first version.

She says they're hoping to progress from the testing phase to the public release next year.