Antimicrobial resistance constitutes a global burden and is one of the major threats to public health. Although the emergence of resistant microorganisms is a natural phenomenon, the overuse or inappropriate use of antimicrobials has had a great effect on resistance evolution. Rapid diagnostic tests that identify drug-resistant bacteria, determine antimicrobial susceptibility and distinguish viral from bacterial infections can guide effective treatment strategies. Moreover, rapid diagnostic tests could facilitate epidemiological surveillance, as emerging resistant infectious agents and transmission can be monitored. In this Viewpoint article, several experts in the field discuss the drawbacks of current diagnostic methods that are used to identify antimicrobial resistance, novel diagnostic strategies and how such rapid tests can inform drug development and the surveillance of resistance evolution.