The replacement of conventional antimalarial drugs with high-cost, artemisinin-based alternatives has created a gap in the successful management of malaria. This gap reflects an increased need for accurate disease diagnosis that cannot be met by traditional microscopy techniques. The recent introduction of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) has the potential to meet this need, but successful RDT implementation has been curtailed by poor product performance, inadequate methods to determine the quality of products and a lack of emphasis and capacity to deal with these issues. Economics and a desire for improved case management will result in the rapid growth of RDT use in the coming years. However, for their potential to be realized, it is crucial that high-quality RDT products that perform reliably and accurately under field conditions are made available. In achieving this goal, the shift from symptom-based diagnosis to parasite-based management of malaria can bring significant improvements to tropical fever management, rather than represent a further burden on poor, malaria-endemic populations and their overstretched health services.