Rapid reporting of culture and susceptibility data is the first of several important steps in the successful management of infected patients. As has been said many times, rapidly reported data are of little value unless the patient directly benefits. Benefit requires better overall communication and an action plan linked to timely use of these results. In 1989 the Millard Fillmore Hospital Antibiotic Review Committee developed and implemented a prototype approach to hospital wide antimicrobial management. The formulary was revised and the drug use evaluation process modified to enhance effectiveness and to lower the cost of therapy and inventory. Clinical pharmacy antimicrobial agent management specialists were then recruited to individualize patient treatments to the isolated pathogens in conjunction with the Division of Infectious Diseases. To provide the clinical pharmacy specialists with rapid and clinically useful information, a real-time computer link was created between the pharmacy (antibiotic orders) and the microbiology laboratory (culture results). Customized software was implemented to screen all patients automatically for mismatches between pathogens and drugs, or to screen for doses inappropriate to minimum inhibitory concentration or renal function. Special attention was paid to identification of opportunities to target a more appropriate narrow-spectrum regimen after culture results became available. Changes in antimicrobial regimen or dosage were made by contacting the prescribing physician. Over 90% of the recommended changes were made, and virtually all changed regimens had satisfactory clinical outcome. Real dollar expenditures for antimicrobial agents declined by > $200,000 per year. Prior to the institution of this computerized clinical management strategy, antimicrobial purchases were rising yearly at the rate of 12%-15%. The combined efforts of clinical pharmacy, microbiology, and infectious disease personnel successfully optimized antimicrobial therapy on a hospital wide basis. Antimicrobial agent optimization improved patient outcome, and the cost savings more than covered the costs of the program personnel and software.